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Full text of "The memoirs of Count Witte"

THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 



The sJktemoirs of 

COUNT WITTE 





GARDEN CITY, N. Y., AND TORONTO 

DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY 
1921 





COPYRIGHT, 1920, 1921, BY 
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THAT OF TRANSLATION 
INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES, INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN 



EDITOR'S NOTE 

Unless otherwise indicated, the dates in the text are ac- 
cording to the Russian, or "old style" calendar. In some 
cases the corresponding Western, or "new style" date is 
given in parentheses. To convert a Russian (Julian) to 
a Western (Gregorian) date add twelve days to the for- 
mer, for dates preceding the year 1900, and thirteen days 
for later dates. 

In spelling the Russian names an attempt is made to 
follow a consistent system of transliteration, in keeping 
with the best modern practice, due allowance being made 
for forms consecrated by usage. 



PREFACE 

Not without hesitancy have I resolved to write a few 
lines as a foreword to the memoirs of my late husband. 
I cannot be impartial in my estimate of this work, to which 
Count Witte attributed so much importance; and the 
biased judgment of his wife can hardly be of any interest 
to the reader. I confess, however, that I have not been 
able to resist the temptation to take advantage of this 
occasion to convey to the American public the gratitude 
which the late Count Witte felt toward the Government, 
press, and people of the United States for the sympathy 
they had shown him at the time of the Portsmouth Con- 
ference. America's recent declaration of its resolve to 
defend Russia's incontestable interests at the critical period 
of its temporary weakness has shown that this sympathetic 
attitude toward him at that time was not an accident. 

I should like to explain to the reader the significance 
which my husband attributed to his work. 1 also 
wish to say a word about the motives which urged 
him to present his thoughts and reminiscences in the 
form of a book not destined to be published while he 
and his contemporaries were alive. Count Witte was 
neither a courtier flattering the monarch, nor a demagogue 
flattering the mob. Although a nobleman, he did not de- 
f end the^BriyUege&jgf the nobility ; and while aiming in his 
pniitiral art-ivitieft mainly af- improvinp- tne condition of the 
peasantry in accordance with the dictates of justice, as a 
statesman he remained alien to that theorejtica_L"populism" 
with whidTthe majority of the Russumintellectuals was 
infatuated. He was not a Liberal, for he did not sym- 
pathize with the striving of the Liberals to reorganize the 

vii 



viii PREFACE 

political system all at once, with a single stroke. Nor was 
he a Conservative, for he despised the coarseness and back- 
wardness of the political thinking which was characteristic 
of Russia's ruling bureaucracy. My husband repeatedly 
saj.d to those intimate with him : "I am neither a Liberal nor 

Conservative. I am simply a man of culture. I cannot 
exile a man to Siberia merely because he does not think as 
I do, and I cannot deprive him of civil rights because he 
'hot pray in the same church as I do. . . ." 

For this reason Witte had many enemies in all camps. 
At the Court, among Conservatives, among Liberals, in the 
democratic circles, everywhere Count Witte was con- 
sidered "an alien." He sought to serve his country in a 
way all his own, and that is why he had but few constant 
companions. Justice compels one to acknowledge that 
my husband's gifts in the field of statesmanship were not 
contested. As a matter of fact, they were valued in all 
the circles of Great Russia. Nevertheless, for the reason 
just mentioned, no other statesman has ever been the object 
of so many varied and contradictory, yet persistent and 
passionate, attacks. At the Court he was accused of re- 
publicanism, while the Radicals attributed to him the desire 
to curtail the rights of the people to the Monarch's ad- 
vantage. The landowners ascribed to him a desire to ruin 
them for the benefit of the peasants, while the radical 
parties upbraided him for a fancied desire to deceive the 
peasants for the benefit of the landowners. The author of 
the Constitution of October lyth, which forms the opening 
of new Russian history, was too inviting a target for in- 
trigues and slanders; on the other hand, the many-sided and 
complex personality of a great statesman could not easily 
be forced into a simplified formula and, therefore, it gave 
rise to misunderstandings, which were at times entertained 
in good faith. 

To engage in controversies with his opponents, to refute 



PREFACE ix 

slanders, to clear away misunderstandings through the 
press, my husband did not desire. He would not demean 
himself by taking a hand in an undignified wrangle. Be- 
sides, the censorship conditions of the old regime, which 
were more stringent for the Czar's Prime Minister than 
for an ordinary citizen, as well as a desire to spare the 
feelings of his contemporaries, prevented Count Witte from 
expressing his thoughts fully and openly. Hence his de- 
cision to let the next generation judge his activity; hence 
these Memoirs. 

My husband wrote his Memoirs only abroad, during the 
months of his summer or winter rests at the foreign health 
resorts. He was not quite confident that his study on the 
Kamenny-Ostrov Prospect in Petrograd was sufficiently se- 
cure from the eye and arm of the Secret Service. At any 
moment, by searching the house, they could deprive him of 
his manuscripts. He knew that too many persons of power 
were interested in his work. All the time the manuscripts 
were kept in a foreign bank in my name. My husband 
feared that in the event of his death the Court and the 
Government would seek to take possession of his archives, 
and he begged me to insure the safety of the Memoirs in 
time. I did so by transferring the manuscripts from Paris 
to Bayonne and depositing them there in another person's 
name. The precautions were not in vain. Immediately 
upon the death of my husband, in February, 1915, his study 
was sealed and all his papers examined and taken away by 
the authorities. Shortly afterwards the Chief of the Gen- 
eral Staff, a General-Adjutant, came to me in the Emperor's 
name and said that His Majesty, having perused the table 
of contents of my husband's Memoirs, had become inter- 
ested in them and wished to read them. I replied that to 
my regret I was unable to present them to His Majesty, 
because they were kept abroad. The Emperor's messenger 
did not insist, but some time afterwards an attache of the 



x PREFACE 

Russian Embassy in Paris appeared in our villa at Biarritz, 
and in the absence of the owners made a very careful 
search. He was looking for the Memoirs, which at 
that time, as I said before, were quietly lying in a safe of 
a bank at Bayonne. 

The Memoirs do not touch upon the events of the great 
war, for they were completed in 1912. For this reason I 
shall say a few words about the popular legend which at- 
tributes to Count Witte a particular Germanophilism. The 
legend is entirely without foundation. Generally speaking, 
my husband had no sentimental biases in politics. He was 
guided by reason alone. He had no particular love or 
hatred for any country or nation. He was only a Russophil, 
in the sense that he placed above all else the interests of 
his country and people. It is true that he was a most 
resolute opponent- of wars in general and of this war in 
particular. He said that it would end with a catastrophe 
for Russia, and that it would ruin Europe for a century. 
Long before the war he stood for a rapprochement between 
Germany and France with the energetic assistance of Russia. 
When the war began, he was deeply worried by it, and he 
expressed himself in favour of the immediate convocation 
of a peace conference. "Let the armies fight, since they 
have already started that madness, but let the diplomats 
immediately begin their work of making peace," he would 
say to his friends. This circumstance must have given rise 
to the legend of my husband's Germanophil tendencies. 
Whether or not he was right in his views of the great war, 
I do not know, but I do know that all his thoughts and 
feelings were instinct with love for Russia, and that he 
wished well-being and order to the whole world. 

COUNTESS WITTE. 
Bruxelles, October ist, 1920. 





My Youth and Early Career 3 

Memories of Alexander III 37 

III] My Work as Minister of Finances .... 48 

Dealing with Li Hung Chang 82 

V Origins and Course of the Russo-Japanese War 105 

VI The Peace of Portsmouth 134 

VII Nicholas II and Alexandra 179 

VIII The Czar's Attempts at Reform .... 207 ' 

IX The Manifesto of October 17, 1905 . . . . 237 

X Bloody Sunday and the Firs*t Soviet . . . 250 

XI The Loan that Saved Russia 285 

"** ^it- 

XII My Premiership .316 

XIII Stolypin's Reactionary Regime 363 

XIV My Experiences with the Kaiser .... 401 



THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

CHAPTER I 

MY YOUTH AND EARLY CAREER 



I WAS born in the year 1849 m tne C ^Y f Tiflis. My 
father, Yuli (Julius) Fiodorovich Witte, was of Baltic 
origin, although officially he belonged to the gentry of the 
province of Pskov. His ancestors were Dutchmen who 
emigrated to the Baltic provinces at the time when that 
region was under Swedish rule. My mother, on the con- 
trary, came of pure Russian stock. She was the daughter 
of Princess Yelena Pavlovna Dolgoruki, the last representa- 
tive of the older branch of that ancient and high-born race. 
Her father was Andrey Mikhailovich Fadeyev, who began 
his career as Governor of the province of Saratov and 
ended as a member of the Main Board of the Viceroy of 
the Caucasus. At the marriage ceremony they were blessed 
with an ancient cross, which, according to the family tradi- 
tion, belonged to Mikhail of Chernigov, a mediaeval Rus- 
sian prince, martyred by a Tatar Khan and canonized by 
the Orthodox Church. 

At the time when my grandfather held the post of Pro- 
vincial Governor, the young Witte, who had studied agri- 
culture and mining in Prussia, arrived in Saratov in the 
capacity of expert agronomist. There he fell in love with 
my mother and married her. My father was born a 
Lutheran, and as my mother's family was arch-Orthodox, 
he was forced to embrace her faith as an indispensable 

3 



4 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

condition of the union. He became completely submerged 
in his wife's family and retained but little contact with the 
Wittes. When his father-in-law went to the Caucasus at 
the invitation of Viceroy Prince Vorontzov, he followed 
him and served there in the capacity of Director of the 
Department of State Property. The two families settled in 
Tiflis and lived in close intimacy. My grandparents played 
an important part in my early life. My grandmother was 
my first teacher. She was an exceptionally cultured woman 
and a botanist of no mean achievement. She gathered a 
vast collection of specimens of the Caucasian flora and 
supplied a scientific description of each plant. She taught 
me reading and also the first principles and dogmas of the 
Orthodox Church. She was very old and palsied, so that 
she had to be wheeled into the children's room seated in 
an armchair for the lesson. As she could not move, I would 
kneel by her with a primer in my hands. In this manner 
she also taught my two brothers, Alexander and Boris. 
I was grandfather's pet, and his death he departed this 
life at the age of seventy was a heavy loss for me. 

Brother Alexander chose a military career and was fa- 
tally wounded in the last Turkish War. Major Witte was 
a brave, modest, and lovable man. The memory of him is 
still green in his regiment, and the favourite regimental 
songs are those which sing of his exploits. I loved him 
dearly and took care of him during his fatal sickness. He 
used to tell me, I recall, his war experiences and also how 
he once fought a duel and killed his adversary. Brother 
Boris did not distinguish himself. Of my two sisters one 
died two years ago ( 1909) . 

Several members of my mother's family were prominent 
in one way or another. One of my aunts, who married a 
Colonel Hahn, achieved some fame as a writer. Her older 
daughter was the celebrated theosophist known under the 
name of Madame Blavatski. The personality and career 



MY YOUTH AND EARLY CAREER 5 

of my cousin Yelena Petrovna Blavatski deserves to be 
treated at some length. 

As I was many years her junior, I could not have any 
recollections of Yelena in her youth. From the stories 
current in our family I gather that when Mrs. Hahn, her 
mother, died, she and her sister came to live with my grand- 
father at Tiflis. At an early age, such is the family tradi- 
tion, Yelena married a certain Blavatski, Vice-Governor of 
the province of Erivan, and settled in the city of the same 
name, but soon abandoned her husband and came back to 
her grandfather. When she appeared in his spacious man- 
sion he immediately decided to send away the troublesome 
young person at the earliest possible moment to her father, 
who was an artillery colonel stationed in the vicinity of St. 
Petersburg. As there were at that time no railways within 
the territory of the Caucasus, the problem was not without 
its difficulties. It was solved in this wise. Two women and 
as many men, including grandfather's trusty steward, were 
selected from the large staff of domestic serfs, and under 
this convoy the future theosophic celebrity proceeded in the 
direction of Poti, enthroned in a capacious four-in-hand. 
From Poti it was planned to ship the fugitive by sea to some 
port connected by rail with the interior of Russia. When 
the company arrived in Poti, several steamers, including an 
English craft, lay in the harbour. Young Mme. Blavatski, 
so the story runs, immediately struck up an acquaintance 
with the captain of the English vessel. To make a long 
story short, one fine morning the convoy discovered to their 
horror that their mistress and charge had vanished into the 
air. Stowed away in an English ship, she was on her way 
to Constantinople. 

The subsequent developments of her amazing career 
appear as follows : At Constantinople she entered a circus 
as an equestrienne and it was there that Mitrovich, one of 
the most celebrated opera bassos of the time, fell in love 



6 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

with her. She gave up the circus and accompanied the 
singer to one of the European capitals where he was en- 
gaged to sing. Shortly afterwards, grandfather was the 
recipient of letters from the singer Mitrovich, who asserted 
that he had been married to Yelena and styled himself 
"grandson." The famous basso apparently was not dis- 
. concerted by the fact that she had not been properly 
divorced from her legal husband, the Vice-Governor of 
Erivan. Several years later a new "grandson" accrued to 
my grandparents. A certain Englishman from London 
informed them in a letter bearing an American stamp that 
he had been married to Mme. Blavatski, who had gone 
with him on a business trip to the United States. Next she 
reappears in Europe and becomes the right hand of the cele- 
brated medium of the sixties, Hume. Then her family 
caught two more glimpses of her dazzling career. They 
learned from the papers that she gave pianoforte concerts 
in London and Paris and afterwards became the manager 
of the royal choir, maintained by King Milan of Serbia. 
In the meantime some ten years had passed. Grown 
tired, perhaps, of her adventures, the strayed sheep decided 
to return to the fold. She succeeded, at the end of that 
period, in getting grandfather's permission to return to 
Tiflis. She promised to mend her ways and even go back 
to her legitimate husband. It was during that visit of hers 
that I saw her first. At that time she was but a ruin of her 
former self. Her face, apparently once of great beauty, 
bore all the traces of a tempestuous and passionate life, and 
her form was marred by an early obesity. Besides, she paid 
but scant attention to her appearance and preferred loose 
morning dresses to more elaborate apparel. But her eyes 
were extraordinary. She had enormous, azure coloured 
eyes, and when she spoke with animation, they sparkled in 
a fashion which is altogether indescribable. Never in my 
life have I seen anything like that pair of eyes. 



MY YOUTH AND EARLY CAREER 7 

It was this apparently unattractive woman that turned 
the heads of a great many society people at Tiflis. She 
did it by means of spiritualistic seances, which she conducted 
in our house. Every evening, I remember, the Tiflis so- 
ciety folks would foregather in our house around Yelena 
Petrovna. Among the guests were Count Vorontzov- 
Dashkov, the two Counts Orlov-Davydov and other repre- 
sentatives of the jeunesse doree, which at that time was 
flocking to the Caucasus from the two capitals in quest of 
pleasure and adventure. The seance would last the whole 
evening and oftentimes the whole night. My cousin did 
not confine the demonstrations of her powers to table 
rapping, evocation of spirits and similar mediumistic 
hocus-pocus. On one occasion she caused a closed piano in 
an adjacent room to emit sounds as if invisible hands were 
playing upon it. This was done in my presence, at the 
instance of one of the guests. Although a young boy, my 
attitude toward these performances was decidedly critical 
and I looked on them as mere sleight-of-hand tricks. I 
should like to add that these seances were kept secret from 
my grandparents and that my father, too, entertained a 
negative attitude towards the whole business. It was Hume, 
I believe, to whom Madame Blavatski owed her occult 
knowledge. 

Mme. Blavatski made her peace with her husband and 
went as far as establishing a home at Tiflis, but it was not 
given to her to walk the path of righteousness for any length 
of time. One fine morning she was accosted in the street 
by Mitrovich. The famous basso was now declining, 
artistically and otherwise. After a brilliant career in 
Europe, he was forced to accept an engagement at the 
Italian Opera of Tiflis. The singer apparently had no 
doubts as to his rights to my cousin, and did not hesitate to 
assert his claims. As a result of the scandal, Mme. Blavat- 
ski vanished from Tiflis and the basso with her. The couple 



8 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

went to Kiev, where under the guidance of his "wife" 
Mitrovich, who by this time was approaching sixty, learned 
how to sing in Russian and appeared with success in such 
Russian operas as "Life for the Czar," "Rusalka," etc. 
The office of Governor-General of Kiev was held at that 
time by Prince Dundukov-Korsakov. The Prince, who at 
one time served in the Caucasus, had known Yelena Pe- 
trovna in her maiden days. I am not in a position to say 
what was the nature of their relationship, but one fine 
morning the Kievans discovered a leaflet pasted on the doors 
and telegraph posts which contained a number of poems 
very disagreeable for the Governor-General. The author 
of this poetic outburst was no other person than Mme. 
Blavatski herself, and as the fact was patent, the couple had 
to clear out. 

She was heard of next from Odessa, where she emerged 
in the company of her faithful basso. At the time our entire 
family was settled in that city (my grandparents and father 
had died at Tiflis), and my brother and I attended the uni- 
versity there. The extraordinary couple must have found 
themselves in great straits. It was then that my versatile 
cousin opened in succession an ink factory and retail shop 
and a store of artificial flowers. In those days she often 
came to see my mother and I visited her store several times, 
so that I had the opportunity of getting better acquainted 
with her. I was especially impressed by the extraordinary 
facility with which she acquired skill and knowledge of the 
most varied description. Her abilities in this respect verged 
on the uncanny. A self-taught musician, she was able to 
give pianoforte concerts in London and Paris, and although 
entirely ignorant of the theory of music, she conducted a 
large orchestra. Consider also that although she never 
seriously studied any foreign languages, she spoke several 
of them with perfect ease. I was also struck by her mastery 
of the technique of verse. She could write pages of 



MY YOUTH AND EARLY CAREER 9 

smoothly flowing verse without the slightest effort, and she 
could compose essays in prose on every conceivable subject. 
Besides she possessed the gift of hypnotizing both her 
hearer and herself into believing the wildest inventions of 
her fantasy. She had, no doubt, a literary talent. The 
Moscow editor, Katkov, famous in the annals of Russian 
journalism, spoke to me in the highest terms of praise about 
her literary gifts, as evidenced in the tales entitled "From 
the Jungles of Hindustan," which she contributed to his 
magazine, The Russian Messenger (Russki Vyestnik). 

Mme. Blavatski's ventures in the field of commerce and 
industry proved, of course, dismal failures. It was then 
that Mitrovich accepted an engagement to sing at the 
Italian Opera at Cairo and the couple set out for Egypt. 
By that time they presented a rather sorry sight, he a tooth- 
less lion, perennially at the feet of his mistress, an aged 
lady, stout and slovenly. Off the African coast their ship 
was wrecked and all the passengers found themselves in the 
waves. Mitrovich saved his mistress, but was drowned him- 
self. Mme. Blavatski entered Cairo in a wet skirt and 
without a penny to her name. How she extricated herself 
from that situation, I do not know, but she was next dis- 
covered in England, where she founded a Theosophic 
Society. To strengthen the foundations of the new cult, 
she travelled to India, where she studied the occult science 
of the Hindus. Upon her return from India she became the 
centre of a large group of devotees of the theosophic doc- 
trine and settled in Paris as the acknowledged head of the 
theosophists. Shortly afterwards she fell ill and died. The 
teachings of theosophy, however, are still thriving. 

Let him who still doubts the non-material origin and the 
independent existence of the soul in man consider the per- 
sonality of Mme. Blavatski. During her earthly existence, 
she housed a spirit which was, no doubt, independent of 
physical or physiological being- As to the particular realm 




10 



of the invisible world from which that spirit emerged, there 
may be some doubt whether it was Inferno, Purgatory or 
Paradise. I cannot help feeling that there was something 
demoniac in that extraordinary woman. 

As I wander back in memory to the formative period of 
my life, I perceive that I was brought up in an atmosphere 
of absolute loyalism. One of my earliest reminiscences is 
of a room where I am with my nurse and which is suddenly 
filled with the members of the family weeping aloud. The 
cause of that sorrow was the news of the death of Emperor 
Nicholas I. Alone the loss of a very dear friend could 
make people weep with such genuine grief. My devotion 
to the monarchs whom I served and to the monarchistic 
principle generally must be indeed an inherited character- 



Speaking of my early upbringing, I must say that while 
my parents hired for us boys, gouverneurs and tutors with- 
out stinting money, they failed to give us enough of their 
personal attention. As a result, we were not sufficiently 
safeguarded against harmful and depraving influences. As 
a child I witnessed ugly scenes between my foster-mother 
(my mother did not suckle me herself) and my nursery- 
maid and their respective husbands who happened to be 
drunkards. When brother Boris, who was one year my 
senior, and myself somewhat grew up, we were entrusted 
to the care of a tutor, a retired Caucasian veteran, who was 
a heavy drinker. Subsequently we were left in the charge 
of a French gouverneur, a former officer of the French 
Navy. After a short while the Frenchman was deported 
by the authorities as a result of a scandalous love affair of 
his. He was succeeded by a Swiss, who became enamoured 
of our governess, and was in his turn supplanted by a Ger- 
man imported by my father from Dorpat. Herr Paulsohn 
taught us, among other subjects, history, geography, and 
German. For some reason or other, I have not profited by 






MY YOUTH AND EARLY CAREER n 

his instruction in German, and in fact I have never learned 
to speak that language. French, on the contrary, I learned 
to speak early in life. In fact, I spoke it with more ease 
than Russian. 

Simultaneously several instructors of the local classical 
Gymnasium (secondary school preparing for the university) 
were busy coaching us for the entrance examinations to that 
school. We were finally admitted as non-matriculated stu- 
dents to the fourth class ( the course of instruction com- 
prised seven classes or years), and we passed from one 
class to another without examination. I was an extremely 
poor student and, in fact, I played hookey most of the 
time. The teachers indulged me partly out of considera- 
tion for my family and partly because they were not respon- 
sible either for my instruction or behaviour. I was con- 
sumed at that time by a passion for music and devoted most 
of my time to practice and lessons in the local Conservatory. 
Besides, both brother Boris and myself were enthusiastic 
sportsmen. We rode a great deal on horseback and at the 
instance of Uncle Rostislav we studied fencing. At the 
final examinations I could hardly give a satisfactory answer 
in any subject. Nevertheless, I received the Certificate of 
Maturity, which entitles one to admission to the Univer- 
sity. The certificate contained, however, a very low mark 
for deportment. At that time I was coming seventeen. 

The moment had now come when I was to bid farewell 
to the place where I spent my childhood and adolescence 
and journey to some distant university town. I was enter- 
ing upon a new period of existence. The impression which 
those years left upon my mind is one of great opulence and 
freedom. To characterize our mode of living, it is enough 
to point out that the family kept as many as eighty-four 
domestic serfs. Needless to say that our house was the 
meeting place of "society," including men like Metropolitan 
Isidor, Exarch of Georgia, who used to dine with us. 



12 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

At first father intended to send Boris and myself to the 
University of Kiev, but finally his choice fell on Odessa, 
where a university had just been opened. In the Fall, 
accompanied by both father and mother, we set out for 
Odessa. There I discovered that I was too young to be 
admitted to the University and that, besides, the mark in 
deportment would also be in my way. It was then decided 
that I would for one semester attend the local Gymnasium 
of Richelieu. Father and mother returned to Tiflis, and 
we remained alone. 

Just then it suddenly dawned upon me that neither 
brother nor I was doing any serious work and that should 
this idling continue we were bound sooner or later to go to 
the dogs. It was then that for the first time I gave evidence 
of that independence of judgment and sturdiness of will 
which have afterwards never deserted me. I formed a 
definite plan of action. The two of us were to leave Odessa, 
which because of its many distractions and temptations was 
no place for serious study, and go to Kishinev, where we 
would be entire strangers. There we would engage several 
reliable Gymnasium instructors as coaches, work hard as 
long as necessary and take the maturity examinations once 
more. I won over my brother to this plan, we went to 
Kishinev, and at the end of six months of strenuous, honest 
work we obtained Certificates of Maturity from the local 
Gymnasium. Thereupon we returned to Odessa and en- 
tered the university, in the year 1867, if I remember rightly. 
I matriculated under the Faculty of Physico-Mathematical 
Sciences. 

At the end of our first University year, we set out for 
Tiflis with a view to spending the summer vacation at 
home. At Poti we were met by a relative who imparted to 
us the sad news that father had suddenly died. Father's 
death resulted in the complete financial ruin of the family. 
This is how it happened. Viceroy Baryatynski made vari- 



MY YOUTH AND EARLY CAREER 13 

ous attempts to develop the natural resources of the Cau- 
casus. The production of cast-iron he entrusted to a cer- 
tain Lippe, the consul of Baden at Odessa. This German 
set up a number of mills, but soon died and left them in a 
lamentable state. At the Viceroy's suggestion, father, who 
had studied mining in Prussia, took over the management 
of the mills, and in trying to develop the business he was 
forced to invest in it his own funds. As he had no fortune 
of his own, he drew upon mother's capital, with her per- 
mission, of course. Thus he spent all mother possessed and 
in addition incurred enormous debts. The informal under- 
standing was that the Government was sooner or later to 
take over the mills and reimburse father for all his ex- 
penses. But when father suddenly died, the understanding 
proved of no value. The liabilities on father's estate were 
so great that we found it advisable to waive the inheritance. 
Thus we were left without any resources, barring a small 
pension granted by the Viceroy to mother, and a modest 
sum which grandfather willed to Uncle Rostislav and which 
the latter generously turned over to mother Under these 
circumstances it was decided that it would be best for the 
entire family to settle at Odessa. This we did the next 
Fall. Only Alexander, who at that time had already his 
commission, remained in the Caucasus. This sudden transi- 
tion from opulence to what was practically poverty was very 
painful for mother. Our situation was, indeed, very diffi- 
cult. It was only owing to a monthly stipend of fifty rubles 
that brother and I were enabled to complete our studies. 
At the University I worked day and night and achieved 
great proficiency in all my studies. I was so thoroughly 
familiar with the subjects that I passed all my examinations 
with flying colours without making any special preparations 
for them. My final academic thesis was entitled "On In- 
finitesimal Quantities." The work was rather original 
in conception and distinguished by a philosophic breadth of 



i 4 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

view. Two years ago I noticed a French translation of it 
in a show window of a Parisian book shop. I was getting 
ready to write another thesis, on an astronomical subject, 
but I fell in love with an actress and lost all desire to 
compose dissertations. 

During my University years I had but little time for 
politics. Generally speaking, I remained faithful to the 
principles of monarchism and the dogmas of Christianity, 
which my upbringing had impressed upon me. In this 
respect I stood apart from the general student body, which 
in those years was swayed by extreme political ideas and 
the philosophy of atheistic materialism. Nevertheless, my 
seriousness and learning commanded the respect of my 
comrades. In spite of my extreme monarchistic sympathies, 
I was, in fact, elected to the board which was in charge of 
the Students' Fund. This innocent savings-fund was subse- 
quently closed down as a dangerous institution and the 
members of the board including myself were brought to 
trial. An indictment was drawn up by Attorney-General 
Orlov, which threatened us with exile to Siberia. We were 
saved by the aristocratic so-called English Club! 

This is what happened: Orlov applied for membership 
in that club, but was voted down. The Minister inquired 
why that happened. He was told that the members of the 
club objected to the preposterous indictment Orlov had 
drawn up against the students. As a result, instead of 
being exiled to some distant corner in Siberia, we were each 
fined twenty-five rubles by a Justice of the Peace. 

The faculty of the University of Odessa included men 
like Mechnikov and Sechenov in biology who later achieved 
world-wide fame, but the teaching staff-of the mathematical 
department did not shine. We had only one professor who 
possessed the rare gift of mathematical thought in its purest 
and highest form, but he was a heavy drinker. Neverthe- 
less, in spite of his handicap, he exerted a great influence on 



MY YOUTH AND EARLY CAREER 15 

his students. I was his favourite pupil and, to a certain 
extent, assistant. 

Looking back at my student years, I cannot help feeling 
that I am greatly indebted to my alma mater. I have a 
high regard for university scholarship and university life. 
By its very definition, a university is dedicated to the study 
of the whole sum of human knowledge as it exists at a 
given moment. This enables the student, while specializing 
along a definite line, to live, to a certain extent, in intel- 
lectual contact with the main currents of science. But 
academic scholarship must be assured complete freedom. 
In saying this I do not wish to advocate that false "free- 
dom" of the universities, which would turn them into a 
forum for political discussion envenomed by passion, false- 
hood, and vulgar cynicism. A true university is the best 
medium for the growth of that broad-mindedness which is 
the pre-requisite for fruitful scientific work and all other 
forms of constructive activity. 

I left the university with a firm intention to prepare 
myself for an academic career, notably for the chair of pure 
mathematics. My decision was very distasteful both to my 
mother and to Uncle Rostislav. They argued that a pro- 
fessorial career did not befit a nobleman. Finally, uncle 
persuaded me to accept a nominal position in the chancery 
of Count Kotzebue, Governor-General of Odessa, while 
continuing my academic studies. This circumstance gave 
me access to the Count's parlour, where among others I met 
Count Vladimir Bobrinski, then Minister of Ways of Com- 
munication. Apparently at Gen. Fadeyev's suggestion, Bo- 
brinski repeatedly spoke to me of the great advantages of 
the career of a railroad man. Tempted by his words, I 
told him that I was going to give up my academic career / 
and take an examination for the degree of traction engineer. 
To my surprise, the Count strenuously opposed my latter 
intention. To his mind, the caste of engineers was a great 



evil. The Government railroad service needed, he said, not 
narrow specialists, but men with a good liberal education, 
preferably with a training in mathematics. Instead of going 
through the theoretical work necessary to obtain the degree, 

he advised me to learn the technicalities of railroading in 
practice. I yielded to his arguments and entered the service 
of the Odessa Government Railroad. 

I donned the military uniform worn in those days by the 
railroad employes who had a definite rank and began to 
study railroading by actually doing the routine work essen- 
tial to the various forms of railroad service, beginning with 
A the humblest. I sold passenger tickets, studied freight 
traffic, worked as assistant station-master and full-fledged 
station-master and acted as train inspector. At the end of 
six months I was promoted to the position of Director of a 
Traffic Bureau. 

In those years the principle of private exploitation of 
railways became popular in the high Government circles, 
and the Odessa road was turned over to a private corpora- 
tion, "The Russian Steamship and Commerce Society," 
headed by Admiral Chikhachev. The new administration 
discharged the traffic director, a rather competent man, for 
no other reason than his Jewish birth, and appointed me in 
his stead; Baron Ungern-Sternberg, traction engineer, was 
appointed Director of the road. Shortly after the corpora- 
tion took possession of the road we had a most serious 
accident, known in the history of Russian railway accidents 
as the "Telegul Catastrophe." 

On the border between the provinces of Podolya and 
Kherson there lies a ravine known as Telegul. A railroad 
runs along this ravine, branching off into three different 
directions. On a December day in 1875, a fatal accident, 
in which many lives were lost, took place at that point, 
which is 1 86 versts from Odessa. A section of the rail had 
been removed for repair. The spot, however, was not 



MY YOUTH AND EARLY CAREER 17 

marked by danger signs, nor were the neighbouring stations 
warned of this condition of the track. A blinding blizzard 
was raging over the steppe, and the workmen had gone into 
a shanty by the road to warm themselves and take some 
hot tea. Just then a train loaded with recruits, and bound 
for Odessa, was heading full speed for this spot. On reach- 
ing it the whole train was precipitated into the ravine. As 
it was sliding down it caught fire, and the gale fanning the 
flames, a part of the train was burned to ashes. We were 
immediately informed of the catastrophe. Accompanied by 
Baron Ungern-Sternberg, I took a special train and rushed 
to the scene. We found that most of the recruits had been 
burned to death, and that the injured had been removed to 
hospitals. I do not remember how many lives were lost, 
but the number of victims certainly exceeded one hundred. 
This disaster attracted wide attention. Public opinion 
in those days was envenomed by that spirit of liberalism 
which is essentially hatred against those who stand out, 
either because of position or wealth, the spirit which ani- 
mates the revolutionary mob, and which several years later 
was responsible for the revolting assassination of so great 
an emperor as Alexander III. Therefore, to pacify the 
popular indignation, it was necessary to find a scapegoat 
among the higher officials indirectly responsible for the 
accident. The choice fell upon Admiral Chikhachev, Direc- 
tor of the Odessa Railroad, and myself, for I was consid- 
ered the leading spirit of the railroad management. As a 
matter of fact, the repair of the roads was entirely outside 
of the sphere of my supervision. Of course the real culprit, 
the man in charge of the repair, was also arraigned, but he 
lost his mind and ran away. The prosecution was conducted 
in a manner which was clearly unfair, and designed to create 
the impression that the judicial authorities were thoroughly 
imbued with the spirit of liberalism. The Attorney-General 
of the Odessa District Court refused to sanction the indict- 



1 8 

ment for the reason that, properly speaking, we had com- 
mitted no crime, nor could we be proved accomplices of the 
real culprit. The case was then transferred to the Kame- 

* 

netz Criminal Court, which was of the old type. There we 
were each sentenced to four months in prison. 

Then war with Turkey broke out. Grand Duke Nikolai 
Nikolaievich, who had come to Kishinev, with a brilliant 
staff, promised me that should I succeed in transporting the 
army successfully, he would intercede for me before the 
Emperor to the end of voiding my sentence. To dispose of 
this incident completely, I wish to add the following: At 
the end of the war I received a telegram from the War 
Minister, that in consideration of our distinguished services, 
both Chikhachev and myself were freed from serving our 
prison terms. Thereupon I went to Petrograd and settled 
down with my wife, whom I had recently married. One 
night I was awakened by my valet and told that an officer 
of the gendarmes, accompanied by a detachment of police- 
men, had invaded the house and were asking for me. I 
was taken to the police station and thence to the Winter 
Palace. There I discovered the cause of my sudden arrest. 
The Minister of Justice, it appeared, had reported to the 
Emperor that the abrogation of our sentences was unlaw- 
ful. The Emperor can amnesty but not invalidate a court 
sentence. The Minister pointed out that public opinion was 
greatly aroused on account of the fact that nobody had 
been punished in connection with the Telegul catastrophe. 
The Emperor compromised by ordering my arrest for two 
weeks in the guardhouse. I was at that time engaged in 
drafting Regulations concerning the field management of 
railroads. Besides I was serving on Count Baranov's Com- 
mission. Count Baranov reporting to the Emperor that 
I was indispensable to him, I was allowed my freedom 
during the day, but was obliged to spend the nights in the 
guard house. 



MY YOUTH AND EARLY CAREER 19 

When the Russo-Turkish war broke out, in 1877, I was S~ 
practically the head of the Odessa Railroad. Being of a / 
great strategic importance, it was subjected directly to the 
authority of Grank Duke Nikolai (Nicholas) Nikolaievich, 
Commander-in-Chief of the active forces. My particular 
task was the transport of the troops to the front. In the pre- 
ceding year I successfully handled the numerous volunteers 
who were flocking southward to join General Chernyayev's 
forces. In those days I was an enthusiastic adherent of the 
"Slav idea," and I dreamed of the capture of Constanti- 
nople. I was, in fact, vice-president of the Slavonic Society 
at Odessa. We maintained a special office which handled 
the transportation of volunteers. Curiously enough, one of 
the clerks who worked in that office at 20 rubles a month 
was the man to whom King Ferdinand of Bulgaria owes his 
throne and who in the encfbecame the president of the Bul- 
garian Cabinet. Itjwas Stephan Stambulov. 

The task of transporting the army divisions to the front 
was by no means an easy one. The railroad was extremely 
inefficient. There existed definite, carefully elaborated 
plans for the transportation of the army, but the plans 
could not be carried out because of insufficient rolling stock. 
Nevertheless, as I said, I acquitted myself with success of 
my difficult task. I owed my success to energetic and well- 
thought-out action. Faced by a serious shortage of loco- 
motives, I invented and applied the traffic system which had 
long -been in practice in the United States and which is now 
known as the "American" system. It consists in working 
the locomotives day and night, using shifts of machinists. 
Under the pressure of necessity I also introduced other 
technical improvements. 

The railroads in the Southwest yielded no profit. When 
the war was over, three of them, including the Odessa Rail- 
way, combined forming the Corporation of Southwestern 
Railroads. This resulted in my appointment as Director 



20 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

of the Exploitation Department of the newly formed rail- 
road system. As my office was located in St. Petersburg, 
I settled in the capital and married Madame Spiridonov, 
nee Ivanenko, a very beautiful woman and the daughter of 
the Marshal of the nobility of the Chernigov province. I 
met my future wife at Odessa, where she resided after 
having left her husband, who was a profligate and a worth- 
less fellow generally. With my assistance she obtained her 
divorce and followed me to St. Petersburg. Out of con- 
sideration for my wife, I adopted the girl who was her 
only child, with the understanding, however, that should 
our marriage prove childless she would not succeed me as 
heiress. 

Those years were the golden age of private railroad con- 
struction and operation in Russia. They witnessed the 
growth of huge fortunes in the hands of several railroad 
kings. I have known some of them, for instance, Gubonin, 
a plain peasant with a great deal of horse sense, old Polya- 
kov, a Jewish patriarch, the head of a dynasty of financial 
and railroad leaders, von Meek, a stiff German, Derviz. 
The latter's fabulous wealth turned his head. In the 
palazzo which he built for himself in Italy he maintained a 
complete operatic company and had operas produced for 
himself as the only audience. 

Blioch, the head of our railroad corporation, made a 
rather remarkable career. An apparently insignificant and 
totally untutored Jew, he started as a small railroad con- 
tractor. When he prospered he had the intelligence to 
withdraw from the country for the purpose of getting an 
education. He went as far as attending a German univer- 
sity. Thereupon he returned to Russia, and married a 
beautiful society girl at the price of conversion to Catholi- 
cism. He settled in Warsaw and began to build railroads. 
At the time when I entered the service of the Corporation 
of South-Western Railroads, Ivan Alexeyevich Vyshnegrad- 



MY YOUTH AND EARLY CAREER 21 

ski, later Minister of Finances, was his chief agent in St. 
Petersburg. In the end Blioch lost all interest in railroad- 
ing and began to dabble in scholarship and politics. He 
published several learned works, including a "History of the 
Russian Railroads," i.e., they were issued under his name 
but were written by specialists whom he hired for the pur- 
pose. He also became a propagandist of pacifism. I am 
told that he made an effort to convert to his pacifistic faith 
Empress Alexandra soon after her marriage to His Majesty, 
but that it was labour lost. 

Vyshnegradski was nominally head of the Management 
of the South-Western Railroads. I was shocked to see how 
he cringed before his superior, Blioch. As Vyshnegradski 
was busy with a number of other things, the administration 
of the affairs of the South-Western Railroads was practi- 
cally in the hands of a young engineer by the name of 
Kerbedz and myself. In addition to my serving in the 
Management, I was also a member of Count Baranov's 
Railroad Commission. In fact, I was the leading spirit of 
the Commission. Its only tangible achievement was the 
drafting of a set of Railroad Statutes, the text of which is 
almost entirely my work. In spite of considerable resist- 
ance on the part of the Minister of Ways of Communica- 
tion, these statutes became a law and are still in force. 

In the meantime, the roads continued to yield a deficit. 
It was consequently decided to send me to Kiev, in the 
hope that my presence there might help improve matters. 
I went to Kiev and reorganized the entire management of 
the roads with a view to centralizing it. The corporation 
announced its intention to appoint me Director of the 
roads, but the Government refused to confirm the appoint- 
ment on the pretext that I did not have the degree of Trac- 
tion Engineer. Soon after my arrival in Kiev, Vyshnegrad- 
ski was appointed Minister of Finances, and a certain 
Andreyevski succeeded him as Director of the South- 



22 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Western Railroads. As he proved unsatisfactory, the Gov- 
ernment was again asked to approve my appointment as 
director. This time the Government yielded. I was the 
first director of a large railroad system without a technical 
education in engineering. 

The assassination of Alexander II (March I, 1881) 
found me at Kiev. Under the influence of the disastrous 
event, I wrote to General Fadeyev a letter in which emotion 
prevailed over reason. In that message I argued that the 
Government was powerless against the revolutionists be- 
cause it hurled too huge a missile at too small an enemy. 
The revolutionists, I wrote, must be combated with their 
own weapon, namely, by means of a secret organization 
which would make it its business to answer each terroristic 
letter with a counter blow of a similar nature. To attempt, 
I said, to overcome the enemy by using the whole weight of 
the State machinery would be like trying to crush a grain 
of dust with a huge steam hammer. 

Several days later my uncle informed me that my letter 
was on the Emperor's desk and that I would probably be 
summoned before His Majesty. In effect, shortly afterwards 
the Court Minister requested me to come to St. Petersburg 
for a conference with him. In the course of it he inquired 
of me whether I still held the opinion which I expressed in 
my letter to General Fadeyev. Upon receiving an affirma- 
tive reply, he introduced me to his aide-de-camp, Count 
Shuvalov. The count took me to his mansion, and as soon 
as I entered his study he produced a Bible and asked me 
to swear allegiance to the secret society which had been 
formed in accordance with my suggestion, under the name 
of "The Holy Brotherhood." Surprised and nonplussed, 
I went through the ceremony of taking the oath with a 
feeling of doing a rash and thoughtless act. Thereupon 
Shuvalov announced to me that I had been appointed chief 
organizer for the Kiev district, and initiated me into some 



MY YOUTH AND EARLY CAREER 2^ 

% 

of the secrets of the organization. Each member was to 
form a group of five and the groups were not supposed to 
know of the existence of each other. "The Holy Brother- 
hood" was a strictly secret body, not unlike the societies 
which existed in the Middle Ages in Venice. Shuvalov 
supplied me with a code and explained to me the secret to 
be used by the members of the society. Thereupon, I 
immediately returned to Kiev. 

Soon afterwards I was ordered by the Brotherhood to 
go to Paris where I was to get further instructions. I 
obeyed the order. In Paris I was informed by letter that a 
member of the society, by the name of Polyanski, was living 
in the hotel where I had stopped (Grand Hotel, opposite 
the Grand Opera) and that he had the mission of assassi- 
nating the revolutionist Hartman, who two years previously 
made an attempt on the life of Emperor Alexander II. 
I knew this man. He was a dashing officer of the Uhlans. 
I had previously met him at Odessa in the company of 
actresses. 

Upon ascertaining each other's membership by means of 
secret signs, Polyanski accosted me and astonished me by the 
following declaration: 

You have come to Paris to kill me if I fail to do away with 
Hartman, haven't you? I assure you, if I have not killed him 
yet it is because I have received instructions from St. Petersburg to 
postpone the execution. This may have something to do with your 
arrival here. But let us get up to-morrow at 5 o'clock in the morning 
and I shall prove it to you that it is within my power to kill Hartman 
any moment. The matter depends solely upon me. 

Early next morning we made our way to the Quartier 
Latin and stationed ourselves in the street before a house 
which my companion bade me watch. After waiting a 
considerable while we noticed Hartman himself as he 
emerged from the gates. Two apaches (gunmen) who had 
been lingering nearby followed him. After a while the 




24 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WlTTE 

apaches returned, accosted Polyanski and declared indig- 
nantly that they were sick of the whole business and were 
going to quit it. It appears that they had been hired by 
my fellow conspirator to start a quarrel with Hartman and 
dispatch him ad patres in the squabble. But as Polyanski 
kept on postponing the final order, the men were growing 
more and more impatient. Polyanski somehow pacified the 
worthy cut-throats, and explained to me that the order not 
to kill the man came from Zograf, the son of the former 
Ambassador to Greece. "Let's go to the restaurant 'Le 
Voisin,' " he suggested. "Zograf will be there. He told 
me he was expecting some news from St. Petersburg." 

We found Zograf in the restaurant. He declared to us 
that Adjutant-General Wittgenstein was coming to Paris to 
settle the affair. That was the last drop in the bucket. I 
told my comrades then and there that I was not going to 
wait for Wittgenstein and I took the next train for Kiev. 
The preposterous incident thoroughly disgusted me. Be- 
sides, I learned that all manner of riff-raff and ambitious 
climbers was flocking into the secret "brotherhood," in the 
hope of acquiring valuable connections. "The Holy 
Brotherhood" was in fact becoming the tale of the town. 
I felt that something had to be done to put an end to this 
ridiculous, if not disgraceful, situation. 

Accordingly I wrote to Count Vorontzov-Dashkov, say- 
ing that the society for the existence of which I was partly 
responsible had rapidly degenerated and that the situation 
had become intolerable. Nevertheless, since I had sworn 
allegiance to the society, I wrote, I did not consider it 
proper for me to withdraw from it. To remedy the situa- 
tion I suggested that the statutes of the society as well as a 
list of its members should be published in The Governmental 
Messenger and other papers, thus exposing the members to 
the vengeance of the revolutionists. Naturally, I stated, 
those members who were not sincerely devoted to the aims 



MY YOUTH AND EARLY CAREER 25 

of the society would withdraw, and the organization would 
thus be thoroughly purged. I concluded the letter by de- 
claring that I would wait a month for a reply, after which 
period I should no longer consider myself a member of the 
"brotherhood." A month passed, but no answer came. 
I returned the secret code and other material in my posses- 
sion, and that put an end to the "Holy Brotherhood" 
incident. 

I wish to record here another reminiscence of the early 
eighties, namely, the anti-Jewish riots which I witnessed at 
Kiev and Odessa. In those days, it must be admitted, the 
Government had the right attitude toward the pogroms. 
It is certain that the authorities did not incite the popula- 
tion against the Jews. The movement was spontaneous. 
The Government did not hesitate to suppress the lawless- 
ness of the mob with a firm hand. General Kotzebue, 
Governor-General of Odessa, took against the rioters the 
most ruthless measures, including bayonet attacks upon the 
mob. As a result, I remember, the disorder did not spread. 

To return to my activities as Director of the South- 
Western Railroads, I must say that I was fortunate in 
securing the services of a number of prominent railroad men 
as my assistants. Quite a few of them were Jews and 
Poles, for the simple reason that the Southwest of Russia 
is the homeland of a great Jewish and Polish population. 
With the rise of the senseless nationalistic po^^y ? n ggrpnf 
years, a great many of these highly competent men were 
ousted from the service. My efforts were crowned with 
success. The financial situation of the railroads soon im- 
proved, so that instead of suffering losses the corporation 
was before long in a position to pay substantial dividends. 

My activities at Kiev included also sporadic literary 
work. I contributed occasional articles to such papers as 
Katkov's Moksovskiya Vedomosti (Moscow Bulletins) 
and Aksakov's Rus (Russia), and I took part in founding 



26 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

a Kiev daily, where I conducted a polemic on railroad and 
financial subjects. I advocated private ownership and ex- 
ploitation of railroads as opposed to Government exploita- 
tion and Government interference in railroad matters gen- 
erally. As a result of these discussions, I decided to elab- 
orate a theory of railroad tariffs. This I did in a book 
entitled "Principles of Railroad Tariffs," which I wrote at 
Marienbad, while taking a cure there. I kept on revising 
the successive editions of this work, and I understand that 
it is still used as a manual by railroad tariff experts. 

I remember Emperor Alexander's visit to Kiev soon 
after his accession to the throne. He was accompanied by 
his immediate family and his two brothers, Grand Dukes 
Vladimir and Alexey. In my official capacity I was on 
board the Emperor's train on his way back. Before the 
train left, the Imperial passengers gathered in the waiting- 
room. The heir apparent and Czarevich George, then 
mere boys, were very troublesome. They scampered be- 
tween the legs of the numerous men arrayed in gorgeous 
uniforms, who had come to see the Imperial guests off. 
Seeing this, Grand Duke Vladimir seized one of the boys by 
the ear and boxing it said: "I say behave yourself." 
Thirteen years later this boy became the Autocrat of all 
the Russias. On the way, the two boys were a source of 
constant worry to their gouverneur. As soon as the train 
came to a stop they would alight and run to look at the 
_^ engine. I was constantly in fear that they might be left 
IK v* v behind at some station. 

In my capacity of Director of the South-Western Rail- 






roads I accompanied the Emperor in his travels in the 
South on two more occasions, notably when he reviewed 
manoeuvring troops near a station situated between Brest 
and Bielostok, and in the Summer of 1888, when he trav- 
elled to Yalta. As a rule, the schedule for the Imperial 
trains was worked out by the Minister of Ways of Com- 



MY YOUTH AND EARLY CAREER 27 

munication, without consulting the directors of the local 
railways. According to the schedule, which I received in 
due time, the Imperial train was to make the distance 
between the stations Rovno and Fastovo with a speed which 
was safe only for a light passenger train. As a matter of 
fact, several hours before the arrival of the train I was 
informed by wire that it consisted of a great many large, 
heavy cars. To run such a train at the speed demanded by 
the schedule, it was necessary to use two freight engines. 
I was perfectly aware that a train of this weight running at 
such a speed was in danger of being smashed up at any spot 
where the road was not in perfect condition. Nevertheless, 
nothing was left to me but to follow the schedule. I 
boarded the train at Rovno and took it to Fastovo. I 
spent the night in the car of the Minister of Ways of Com- 
munication, which was in the rear and had no communica- 
tion with the rest of the train. While everyone was soundly 
asleep, I lay feverish with constant expectation of a disaster. 

To my great relief, we reached Fastovo safely. Upon 
my return to Kiev, I sent a report to the Minister of Ways 
of Communication, stating that not wishing to create a 
scandal I had followed the schedule of the Imperial train, 
but that I considered the speed impossible and highly un- 
safe. In support of my statement I cited technical data. 
In conclusion, I declared that I refused all responsibility 
for the safety of the Imperial train on its way north if the 
speed was not reduced in accordance with the proper stand- 
ards of safety. The Minister's reply was to the effect that 
the schedule would be changed in compliance with my 
desire. 

When I boarded the Imperial train on its backward jour- 
ney, I noticed that everyone looked at me askance. Count 
Vorontzov-Dashkov, who had been on good terms with my 
family and had known me since my boyhood, pretended not 
to have recognized me. I understood what it all meant 



28 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

when Adjutant-General Cherevin, Minister of Ways of 
Communication, approached me and said: "His Majesty 
has ordered me to inform you of his displeasure with the 
service on the South-Western Railroads." 

I started to explain what had happened, when the Em- 
peror came up to us and said, addressing me : "What are 
you trying to say? I have travelled on other roads with 
the same speed, and nothing ever happened. One cannot 
get any speed on your road, simply because it is a Jewish 
railway" (the Emperor was alluding to the fact that the 
head of the corporation which owned the road was a Jew) . 
His Majesty walked off, and we continued our unpleasant 
conversation. The Minister's main argument was that the 
Emperor had ridden on other roads with the same speed, 
and no one had ever objected to it. At last, unable to re- 
strain myself any longer, I snapped brusquely: 

"Your Excellency, let others do as they please, but I do 
not wish to endanger His Majesty's life. In the end you 
will break his neck." 

The Emperor, no doubt, heard my words and must have 
been displeased by my impertinence, but he said nothing. 
Anticipating upon the course of events, I may say that 
Alexander III was the only man in whose presence I spoke 
my mind with complete unrestraint and with that bluntness 
which is rooted in my temperament. It is noteworthy that 
while my natural sharpness and looseness of speech has 
always stood between me and Emperor Nicholas II, those 
traits of my character never aroused the displeasure of 
Alexander III throughout the years of my service as his 
Minister. In this respect, as in many others, the now reign- 
ing Czar is the direct contrary of his most august father. 

Two months passed. On the night of October 16, I 
received a dispatch informing me that the Imperial train 
was on its way to Fastovo, whence the Emperor would 
proceed to Kiev. I immediately ordered a special train 



29 

and made ready to set out for Fastovo. But before I left 
Kiev, I received a second telegram to the effect that the 
route of the Imperial train had been changed. I soon 
learned what was the cause of this sudden change. Be- 
fore several hours were over I received a third telegram 
instructing me to go immediately to Kharkov, there to act 
as expert in the investigation of the causes of an accident 
which had just happened with the Imperial train. I went 
straightway to Kharkov and thence to the scene of the 
catastrophe, near the village of Borki, province of Kharkov. 

The investigation which I conducted convinced me that 
the Borki accident was exactly what I feared at the time 
when I accompanied the Imperial train on its way from 
Rovno to Fastovo. Here is what, I believe, had occurred. 
The train was running with two freight engines and at a 
speed to which I had previously objected. Freight train 
engines are not built for high speeds. When such an engine 
runs at an excessive speed, it sways and is thus apt to thrust 
a loose rail off the track-bed and wreck the train. That is 
exactly what happened. The train jumped the track and 
rolled down the embankment. Twenty-one lives were lost 
and thirty-seven people wounded. At the moment of the 
catastrophe the Emperor with his family was in the dining- 
car. This car being completely smashed, its entire roof fell 
on him, yet owing to his great strength he supported it with 
his back, thus saving everyone in the dining-car from injury. 
In this grave danger he did not lose his habitual presence 
of mind and kind-heartedness. 

In reporting my findings, I did not hesitate to put the 
blame on the Minister of Ways of Communication, who was 
responsible for the schedule of the Imperial trains, and 
also on the inspector of those trains, Baron Sherval. As 
a result, both the Minister and the Inspector were soon 
afterwards compelled to tender their resignations. It is 
worth mentioning that the Emperor parted with them with- 



30 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

out any ill-feeling. They were forced to resign because 
public opinion was incensed by the Borki catastrophe. The 
Emperor also dismissed the Chief of the Railroad Manage- 
ment, whom he considered chiefly responsible for the acci- 
dent and against whom he bore a personal grudge. 

Shortly after these changes had taken place, Finance 
Minister Vyshnegradski offered me the newly-created post 
of Director of the Department of Railroad Affairs. The 
offer came to me as a complete surprise. That department 
was established as a division of the Ministry of Finances 
in pursuance of the Statutes which I had elaborated as a 
member of the Baranov Commission. Within its province 
came the finances and, generally, the economic side of the 
entire railroad system of the country, including the tariffs, 
a matter of high importance indeed. 

I informed the Minister that I did not intend to change 
my independent and lucrative position with a private cor- 
poration for the Government post of a department direc- 
tor. To this Vyshnegradski replied that it was the Em- 
peror's personal desire to have me take that post, and that 
His Majesty designed me for higher Government positions. 
It appears that Alexander had not forgotten the incident 
which resulted in my being rebuked by General Cherevin. 
In his letter, Vyshnegradski quoted the terms in which the 
/"Emperor referred to me in insisting on my appointment to 
I the post in question. "It is that blunt fellow," His Majesty 
said, "who nearly to my face told the Minister of Ways of 
Communication that he would in the end break my neck. 
But everything happened just as he said. I mean to make 
good use of that man." 

s - I hastened to inform the Minister that I did not wish, of 
course, to go counter to His Majesty's desire. I asked him, 
however, to report to the Emperor that I had no income 
whatsoever besides my salary, which now amounted to more 
than 50,000 rubles a year, and that I could not live com- 



MY YOUTH AND EARLY CAREER 31 

fortably on the 8,000 which a department director gets. 
The Emperor agreed to pay me, in addition to the latter 
sum, another 8,000 rubles from his own pocket, and I 
accepted the appointment. The year 1888 thus marks the 
beginning of my career as a high Government official. 

My service necessitated my presence in St. Petersburg. 
Accordingly, we settled again in the capital. The change 
was not at all after my wife's heart, because we could not 
live on as rich a footing as we did at Kiev, and also be- 
cause the Northern climate did not agree with either of us. 
Upon my arrival in St. Petersburg, I was received by the 
Emperor, together with several other men. The reception 
took place at His Majesty's residence at Gatchina. The 
Emperor told me that he was pleased to see me and that 
he was glad that I had accepted the post of Director of 
the newly-created department. His Majesty had a long 
private conversation with one of our party, a lean man in 
a colonel's uniform. Its subject, as I learned afterwards, 
was the comparative advantages of various reducing diets. 
It appears that the Emperor was greatly worried by his 
growing embonpoint. As he had known the colonel when 
the latter was stout, he detained him and plied him with 
questions as to how he succeeded in reducing his fat. 

The Department of Railroad Affairs contained a finan- 
cial section and a section of tariffs. In addition, there also 
existed in connection with the Department a Tariff Com- 
mittee, which examined all the proposed tariffs, and a 
Council on Tariff Affairs, under the presidency of the Min- 
ister of Finances, which dealt with tariff questions requiring 
legislative sanction. My main achievement, as Director 
of the Department, was the imposition of order upon the 
chaos which prevailed in the field of tariff regulations. The 
statutes defined the maximum tariffs. Except for this re- 
striction and most of the Russian railways were in those 
days owned privately the companies did what they 



32 

pleased. For purposes of competition the corporations 
resorted to drastic reductions of the freight tariffs, and 
since the Treasury guaranteed the profit on a part of the 
capital invested in the railroads, the result was a loss to the 
State, that is, to the Russian taxpayer. As the corporations 
were not compelled to publish their tariffs, they established 
secret tariffs and indulged in other practices which added 
to the confusion. 

I put an end to this deplorable situation by introducing 
\ Governmental control over railroad tariffs. At first, my 
efforts in this direction aroused the animosity of the private 
corporations. They considered my attempt to regulate the 
tariffs as an encroachment upon their rights. As the cor- 
porations soon perceived, however, that the order which I 
had introduced actually benefited them, their ill-feeling 
toward me disappeared. The tariff regulations which I 
put into effect eventually succeeded in eliminating the rail- 
road deficit amounting to 48,000,000 rubles. These regula- 
tions are still in force. 

Early in 1892 I was appointed Minister of Ways of 
Communication to the astonishment of the official circles of 
the capital. A word must be said about my predecessors in 
that post. Posyet, Minister during the Borki catastrophe, 
had been appointed for the reason that he was the naval 
instructor of Grand Duke Alexey. He was very honest but 
remarkably unintelligent. His ignorance of railroad mat- 
ters was prodigious. He had a peculiar weakness. His 
inspection of the roads was confined to an examination of 
the toilet rooms. If he found them in an insanitary con- 
dition he was furious, but if they were clean he felt satis- 
fied and looked at nothing else. My immediate prede- 
cessors were Pauker and Giibbenet. The latter was a 
bureaucrat with no knowledge of railroading. In his ad- 
ministration the railroad traffic was greatly demoralized. 
A certain Colonel Wendrich was appointed to combat the 



MY YOUTH AND EARLY CAREER 



33 



freight jams, but upon the whole his activity only made the 
confusion worst confounded. 

As a rule, I do not like to make many changes in the 
staff, when I am appointed to a new position. Here, how- 
ever, I insisted on the removal of Colonel Wendrich. Dur- 
ing the revolution of 1905, he came again to the surface 
with the aid of Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaievich. For a 
whole year he raged on the railroads, discharging men and 
evolving various ill-starred schemes for the suppression of 
the unrest among the railway workers. I secured the serv- 
ices of two experienced railroad directors and of several 
local railroad men. My acquaintance with the country's 
highways and waterways was rather superficial, yet I was 
aware that laxity and corruption thrived in the department 
which controlled that section of the Ministry's work. I 
started a campaign against these Corrupt practices, but as 
my administration of the Ministry was very brief, my efforts 
bore no fruit. The memory of the Borki catastrophe still 
being fresh in my mind, I drafted a set of new rules regu- 
lating the movement of the Imperial trains, to the end of 
insuring their safety. Although these regulations, to a 
certain extent, limited the comforts of the Emperor's at- 
tendants, they were readily approved by His Majesty and 
are still in force. 

Although in those years I was tied down to my bureau- 
cratic office in the capital, I did not lead an entirely seden- 
tary life. In the fall of 1890, I accompanied Minister 
Vyshnegradski in his trip to Turkestan. We inspected the 
Transcaspian Railway and visited Samarkand. That part 
of Asia profoundly impressed me with the vastness of its 
natural resources, which in those days were entirely unde- 
veloped. Since that time the cotton industry has grown 
up in this region, but the mineral resources are still lying 
dormant in the soil of Turkestan. 

We also visited the Imperial Domains at Murgab, Trans- 




34 

caspia. The Government was just then attempting to con- 
vert these vast estates into a sort of agricultural experi- 
mental station for the cultivation of cotton and other 
valuable industrial plants. To make the soil fertile it was 
necessary to irrigate it with water drawn from the Amu- 
Darya River. This worked great hardships on the popula- 
tion of this region where water is exceedingly scarce and is 
considered the most precious of gifts. For this reason the 
local population was extremely hostile to the undertaking., 
The people were embittered by what they thought was an 
effort on the part of the Russian Czar to take away a part 
of their water after he had appropriated to himself vast 
stretches of their land. Of course, neither Alexander II 
who originated the idea of the Murgab experimental sta- 
tion, nor Alexander III were aware of this aspect of the 
matter. We telegraphed to the Court Minister, reporting 
that when irrigated the Murgab steppe would perhaps be 
fit for the cultivation of cotton, but that the local popula- 
tion and also the Governor of the region had assumed a 
hostile attitude toward the project for the reason that the 
irrigation of the Murgab Domains would considerably 
reduce the water resources of the region and thus endanger 
the agricultural industry by which the population subsisted. 
I doubt whether the telegram was shown to the Emperor. 
On otfr way to Turkestan we visited the Caucasus, and I 
spent two days with my wife at Kislovodsk, the celebrated 
health resort, where she was taking a cure. When I left 
her she was in high spirits and very hopeful as to her health. 
We agreed to return to St. Petersburg at about the same 
time. But instead of going directly north after she had 
completed her course of treatment, my wife visited her 
brother in the latter's country estate in the province of 
Chernigov and wrote me that she had a very pleasant time 
there. In the meantime I returned to St. Petersburg. 
Shortly after my arrival there I received a telegram inform- 



MY YOUTH AND EARLY CAREER 35 

ing me that my wife had died at Kiev from a heart attack. 
I hastened to that city and assisted at her burial. 

About a year after my wife's death I saw for the first 
time Madame Lisanevich, the woman who shortly after- 
wards divorced her husband and became my wife. As I 
was aware that the Emperor considered it improper for a 
member of the Government to marry a divorced woman, I 
attempted to resign from my ministerial post shortly be- 
fore my marriage. His Majesty, however, who had been 
initiated into all the circumstances of the case, assured me 
that in his judgment I acted properly and that my step 
would only add to the respect he had for me. Neverthe- 
less, for many years Court circles could not be reconciled 
to my marriage, and it is only since 1905 that my wife has 
been received at the Court and in high society generally. 

As Minister of Ways of Communication I made an exten- 
sive trip along the Volga, in the spring of 1892, when an 
epidemic of cholera broke out in that region. I undertook 
the trip at the Emperor's suggestion for the purpose of 
seeing what measures were being taken to combat the 
plague in the stricken provinces. I travelled from town to 
town, from hamlet to hamlet, inspecting hospitals and dis- 
pensaries, coming in close contact with the patients. What 
struck me most was the scarcity of doctors. Nearly the 
entire burden of medical work lay on senior medical stu- 
dents, and it must be said to the glory of the Russian student 
body that they gave without stint both their energies and 
their lives in the heroic task. I sent the Emperor frequent 
reports from the field. When I returned to St. Petersburg, 
His Majesty told me that he was happy to hear of the 
self-sacrificing service of the students and that they had 
thus proved themselves to be the most noble-minded element 
of the intellectual class. As a matter of fact, this incident 
completely broke down the Emperor's hostility toward the 



36 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

student body, which he had regarded early in his reign as 
the hotbed of sedition and revolution. 

My administration of the Ministry of Ways of Com- 
munication lasted some six months. In August I was ap- 
pointed Minister of Finances. At this point of my nar- 
rative I wish to present a brief sketch of the personal traits 
of Emperor Alexander III and a view of the general char- 
acter of that great monarch's reign. 



CHAPTER II 

MEMORIES OF ALEXANDER III 

THE unfortunate brevity of Alexander Ill's reign, thir- 
teen years in all, did not prevent the full growth and display 
of his noble, outstanding personality, to which the whole 
world paid homage on the day of his death. His Russian 
contemporaries and the succeeding generation did not 
highly esteem him, however, and many looked upon his 
reign with a scorn altogether unjustifiable, especially in view 
of the unhappy conditions of his youth and the deplorable 
circumstances under which he ascended the throne. 

To begin with, his education and training were largely 
neglected, since the older brother, Nicholas, was the heir 
apparent during that period of Alexander's life. In addi- 
tion, the family environment was unfavourable. The future 
emperor's sensitive moral feelings were grievously hurt by 
his father's late re-marriage at the age of sixty, when he 
already had numerous grown-up children and even grand- 
children. Then his uncompromising honesty was outraged 
by the prevalence in higher Government circles of a traffic, 
in privileges and concessions to mercantile associations and 
particularly by the implication of Alexander IPs morgan- 
atic wife, Princess Yuryevski, in this barter. 

Consider, too, the unpropitious national situation. Hav- 
ing turned his back upon reform during the latter part of 
his reign, the .Great Liberator (Alexander II) drove the 
liberals into the ranks of the revolutionists, so that when 
the heir apparent began to take an interest in politics, he 
was confronted with the existence of an extremely radical 

37 



38 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

party and strongly impressed, therefore, with the necessity 
of stern measures to suppress subversive movements. The 
Heir was encouraged in this attitude by his preceptor, 
Pobiedonostzev. 

Furthermore, the war with Turkey had weakened the 
country and hindered its development in spite of apparent 
military successes. After conquering more by weight of 
numbers than by superior strategy and tactics, we concluded 
a very advantageous treaty, only to be robbed of the fruits 
of our victory by the Congress of Berlin. Threatened 
with a ruinous war by Austria, Russia was constrained to 
accede to the nullification of the favourable San-Stefano 
agreement with Turkey, a humiliation which left a painful 
and lasting impression upon the future Alexander III, who 
had taken part in the war as a detachment commander. 

This war retarded our financial development twenty 
years, as it frustrated the labours of the Minister of 
Finances, Reitern, who had endeavoured to establish the 
gold standard in Russia in order to raise to par the value 
of the silver ruble, which had remained at a low level ever 
since the Sebastopol war. It was not until I occupied the 
post of Minister of Finance, a score of years later, that the 
Imperial system of currency was placed on a firm basis. 

Finally, let it not be forgotten that the last years of 
Alexander IPs reign were marred by a long chain of ter- 
roristic acts, culminating in the murder of the Emperor 
himself by a bomb on March i, 1881. Emperor Alex- 
ander III had to take his place on a throne, stained, so to 
speak, with paternal blood, and the horrible event left an 
indelible scar upon his memory. 

Alexander III was undeniably a man of limited educa- 
tion. I cannot agree, however, with those who would class 
him as unintelligent. Though lacking perhaps in mental 
keenness, he was undoubtedly gifted with the broad sym- 



MEMORIES OF ALEXANDER III 39 

pathetic understanding which in a ruler is often far more 
important than rational brilliancy. 

Neither in the Imperial family nor among the nobility 
was there anyone who better appreciated the value of a 
ruble or a kopeck than Emperor Alexander III. He made 
an ideal treasurer for the Russian people, and his econom- 
ical temperament was of incalculable assistance in the solu- 
tion of Russia's financial problems. Had not the Emperor 
doggedly warded off the incessant raids upon the Russian 
treasury and checked the ever-present impulse to squander 
the public funds accumulated by the sweat and blood of 
the people, Vyshnegradski and myself could never have suc- 
ceeded in putting the nation back upon its feet financially. 

Alexander Ill's prudence in government expenditures 
was matched by his personal thrift. Abhorring luxury and 
lavish spending, he led an extremely simple life. When he 
grew tired of his own table, he wcnild ask for a common 
soldier's or a hunter's meal. This economy was some- 
times carried too far. The Imperial table was always rela- 
tively poor, and the food served at the Court Marshal's 
board was sometimes such as to endanger the health. Alex- 
ander III was extremely economical with his wearing ap- 
parel. I had a curious proof of this when I accompanied 
the Emperor on one of his railway trips. Since I found it 
impossible, on account of my responsibility, to sleep of 
nights, I would often catch glimpses of His Majesty's valet 
mending the Emperor's trousers. On one occasion I asked 
him why he didn't give his master a new pair instead of 
mending the old so often. "Well, I would rather have it 
that way," he answered, "but His Majesty won't let me. 
He insists on wearing his garments until they are thread- 
bare. It is the same with his boots. Not only does he 
wear them as long as possible, but he refuses to put on 
expensive ones. If I should bring him patent leather boots, 
he would angrily throw them out of the window." The 



40 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Emperor's dislike of the expensive included gorgeous 
rooms. For this reason he never stayed at the Winter 
Palace, but always occupied the unpretentious quarters of 
Anichkov or Gatchina. There he took small rooms and 
lived frugally. He tolerated the Court's luxury as an un- 
avoidable formality, but he always longed for a different 
mode of existence and created it for himself in his private 
life. 

The entire Imperial family respected and feared Alex- 
ander III, who wielded the influence of a veritable patriarch. 
He believed that the royal family must set a moral example 
for the whole nation both in their private and social life. In 
his time dissolute conduct by Russian Grand Dukes in 
foreign countries, so common now, was very rare. Trans- 
gressing members of the Imperial family were sure to incur 
the Emperor's heavy displeasure. Remarriage was severely 
frowned upon in the case of anybody connected with the 
Government. 

Alexander III himself led an unimpeachable life and his 
family was a splendid example of the old-fashioned, god- 
fearing Russian type. He was a stern father and while the 
children did not fear him, they were uneasy and constrained 
in his presence with the single exception of Mikhail, the 
favourite son, who was not only unrestrained, but even in- 
clined to take liberties, as the following amusing anecdote, 
related to me by his valet, will indicate. Becoming im- 
patient at the boy's impertinence and inattention during a 
stroll in the gardens early one Summer morning, Alexander 
III snatched up a watering hose and gave Mikhail a good 
dousing. Without further ado they went in to breakfast, 
the youth changing his drenched clothing. After that the 
Emperor retired to work in his study and as usual indulged 
in his habit of occasionally leaning out of the window, but 
was met with an altogether unusual deluge from the upper 
window, where Misha had stationed himself with a pailful 




MEMORIES OF ALEXANDER III 41 

of water in anticipation of the Imperial appearance fenes- 
tral. There is very little doubt that none but Mikhail 
would have dared to think of such a stratagem, and there is 
no doubt whatsoever that nobody else could have executed 
it with impunity. 

As a ruler, Alexander III made important contributions / . 
to the welfare and prosperity of his subjects and the inter- 
national prestige of the empire. In the first place, he prac- 
ticaTl^r-reeonstfticted the army, which had been thrown into 
a state of serious disorganization by the war with Turkey 
in the seventies. During the time that I was Director of 
Railways and later Minister of that department under 
Alexander III, railroad building, which had practically 
ceased some years before, was resumed with excellent re- 
sults and plans were laid for future development. Alex- 
ander III also made possible the financial rehabilitation 
of Russia, in which I had the honor of participating as 
Minister of Finances. His salutary influence in this matter 
extended beyond his reign. In fact, it was only due to this 
that I was able to retain my position eight years after his 
death and thus complete the work, for Nicholas II was 
incapahle_g_appreciating my endeavours and simply relied 

upon*4us^dH2f^~f a ^' eirls "confidence in me. 

I now come to a~~5ukject which furnishes a striking refu- 
tation of those who would have us believe that Alexander 
III was incompetent and dull-witted. I refer to the in- 
auguration of the system of protective tariff in order to 
encourage and promote Russia's manufacturing industries. 
Thanks to his Imperial Insight, Alexander III had an abso- 
lutely clear understanding of a fundamental situation which 
was obscure to many who possessed the technical and formal 
education that the Emperor lacked. He comprehended that 
Russia must prndnrr industrial ae wfil) m flrrirnll-nril com- 
modities befCjjel^tic LUllld CHJUy widespread and enduring 
prosperity.' Pergeiyiftg-that protection was essential to the 




42 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

initiation and growth of manufacturing plants, he persisted 
until an adequate tariff was established. This called for 
no mean determination and confidence, for the plan met 
with tremendous opposition on the part of the ruling and 
educated classes of the country. Only a monarch of Alex- 
ander Ill's rare wisdom and firmness could have succeeded 
in such a task. The Emperor's achievement was a great 
gift to the empire as its rapidly expanding industries, attest, 
and the day is not far off when Russia will be among the 
leaders of the world in manufacturing. 

Of the measures passed during Alexander Ill's reign 
there are two which are almost invariably looked upon 
with disfavour. One of these is the University Code of 
1884, which displaced that of the sixties. It was put through 
at the instance of Count Tolstoy and a group of ultra-con- 
servatives. I myself considered its passage a bad blunder, 
and it is significant that K. P. Pobiedonostzev, a former 
professor and, on the whole, more conservative than Count 
Tolstoy, expressed himself vigorously against the code, 
both in the Imperial Council and in a private conference 
under his chairmanship. The measure provoked no out- 
breaks, however, and university life was in general very 
quiet under Alexander III with a single exception toward 
the beginning of his reign, when several prominent profes- 
sors, among them the renowned .Mechnikov, lost their 
chairs because the Minister of Public Education, Count 
Delyanov, thought them too liberal. 

The second provision for which Alexander III is often 
condemned relates to the institution of the Zemski Nachal- 
nik, that is, Rural Chief of Police, which entailed a policy 
of paternalistic guardianship over the peasants on the 
theory that they are eternally under age, so to speak. This 
belief seems to me profoundly erroneous. It has already 
made trouble and is fraught with disastrous consequences 
for the future. The measure was undoubtedly a serious 



MEMORIES OF ALEXANDER III 43 

mistake, but I can vouch that the Emperor had the best 
of intentions. His attitude toward the peasantry was one 
of profound sympathy. He shared their joys and sorrows 
and protected the helpless and weak, thus realizing the ideal 
of the Christian monarch. 

Realizing at last that the deep unrest prevalent during 
the least years of .the preceding reign had been due prin- 
cipally to his father's unstable character, Alexander Ill's 
outlook began to change. As he became convinced that 
Russia was in reality far from a revolution, he grew more 
liberal in his ideas and actions. It is my firm belief that 
had Alexander III been granted a longer life, he would 
have inaugurated an era of liberalism, but God called him 
away before this could be. 

ThlTcmef merit of Alexander Ill's reign lies in the fact 
that during its entire thirteen years the empire enjoyed 
unbroken peace. The Emperor's attitude toward war is 
defined in the following remarks, which he made to me in 
connection with a report on the frontier guards: 

"I am glad," he said, "that I have taken part in actual 
warfare and seen with my own eyes the horrors inevitably 
connected with military action. After such an experience, 
not only will a ruler never desire war, but he will employ 
every honourable means of sparing his subjects the trials 
and terrors of armed conflict. Of course, if the strife is 
forced upon him, he will accept the challenge, confident that 
the curse and guilt of the sanguinary struggle will fall upon 
the heads of the instigators." 

These were no empty words. Emperor Alexander III 
detested phrase making and ostentatious pledges of inter- 
national friendship. His deep-rooted honesty forbade such 
shams. For this reason there were very few royal visitors 
to Russia during his reign. Europe was puzzled at the 
gentleness of this mighty giant and continually wondered 
whether he might not at any moment break out in words of 



thunder. He was, indeed, a man of few words, but his 
pronouncements carried weight. The whole world trusted 
and respected him. It was soon recognized that he was not 
in search of conquests. He was too modest and loved his 
subjects too well to desire to illumine the pages of his reign 
with brilliant victories purchased .with the lives and happi- 
ness of his people. Alexander III was great enough to 
pursue successfully a policy of profitable peace with irre- 
proachable honour. He never sacrificed a single jot or tittle 
of the empire's rights and interests. On the contrary, find- 
ing Russia in a very unfavourable situation, he raised her, 
by his wisdom and firmness, to an enviable position of 
power and prestige among the nations, without shedding a 
drop of Russian blood. 

Alexander III is known in history as "the Peacemaker." 
This epithet did not come from the mouth of the people. 
It occurs for the first time in a decree issued by his son soon 
after his death. Emperor Nicholas rather disliked this 
appelation. "The word does not fit my father," he told me 
on one occasion. "Count Vorontzov-Dashkov submitted to 
me the act where it occurs, and I signed it thoughtlessly." 
As a matter of fact, the greatness of Alexander III is not 
that he was a peacemaker, but that he was firm as a rock 
and honest in the highest sense of "tfref word. 

Alexander Ill's internal national programme was just 
as noble and enlightened as his external policy. His atti- 
tude toward the non-Russian races of the empire was one 
of broad-minded sympathy. While he did not, of course, 
abandon the historical Russian viewpoint and tradition, his 
native good sense made him realize that these people must 
be granted the privilege of living a normal life, since 
their union to the empire made them his subjects to be 
treated as such. Naturally, he loved the Russians best, 
but he was kindly disposed towards all his subjects. His 
treatment of Poland is an example in point. When he 



MEMORIES OF ALEXANDER III 45 

visited that territory, he displayed admirable good will, but 
without giving any encouragement to separatist tendencies. 
Gurko and Drenteln, the Governor-Generals of Poland, 
during Alexander Ill's reign, showed the same spirit. They 
ruled firmly but justly, avoiding religiously all jingoistic 
measures of hatred and intolerance. The results fully jus- 
tified this policy, for the Poles were loyal in those days and 
they still revere the memory of Alexander III and his gov- 
ernor-generals. Had this noble-hearted Emperor lived in 
these times, he would have surely risen in wrath against the 
mad persecution of all those Russian subjects who do not 
share the blind and blatant patriotism ofj the Black Hun- 
dreds. 

Unfortunately for Russia, Emperor Alexander Ill's 
reign was comparatively short. His health began to fail 
him in the late '8o's. He appeared pale and anaemic. On 
Easter Sunday of 1894 an incident occurred in the Winter 
Palace which superstitious people regarded as a foreboding 
of evil. It is customary for the Court to hold a grand levee 
during the morning of that holiday. All the electric lights 
in the palace went out suddenly on this occasion and it was 
necessary to go through the ceremony by candle light. By 
this time the Emperor looked seriously ill and he grew 
gradually worse, especially after the catastrophe at Borki, 
to which I have already alluded. I had my last interview 
with His Majesty during the Summer of 1894 when I re- 
ported to him regarding my trip to Murman. At this meet- 
ing his haggard appearance made a heartbreaking impres- 
sion upon me, for I worshipped his personality and was 
attached to him with profound devotion. 

The Emperor's disease was undoubtedly aggravated by 
his extreme antipathy to medical treatment, a very common 
characteristic among the members of the Imperial family. 
The famous Moscow professor, Zakharin, who was sum- 
moned to St. Petersburg, pronounced His Majesty was 



46 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

suffering from nephritis. Shortly afterwards the Emperor 
went to Yalta, where he was treated by the renowned Ger- 
man specialist, Leiden. Both of these physicians later told 
me that though Alexander III displayed a very cheerful 
and even temperament, he was an extremely difficult patient 
to handle on account of his utter lack of faith in medicine. 

Just before the Emperor left for Yalta I found it neces- 
sary to go abroad to Vichy, where I stayed a few weeks. 
On my return, I immediately communicated with His Maj- 
esty, as was customary, requesting his permission to resume 
my work as Minister of Finances. His formal consent came 
promptly by telegraph. Some time after the Emperor 
passed away, I inquired at the Court for the original of 
this telegram because I desired to have it as a remembrance 
if it had been written by His Majesty personally. Such was 
in fact the case and I now have the message in my archive. 
Although composed only about ten days before his death, 
it is written in a very firm hand. It was the last communi- 
cation to me from the Emperor. 

As his end drew near, Alexander III became very anx- 
ious to have the Crown Prince wed and he accordingly 
sent him to fetch the Princess of Darmstadt as his bride. 
The Emperor waited impatiently for the Prince's return 
and was, I have been told, supremely happy when the pair 
arrived, although he had refused his consent to the match 
on a previous occasion. 

On October 19 (31), as the result of an alarming report 
from Yalta regarding His Majesty's critical condition, a 
special prayer was ordered at the Kazan Cathedral. 
Members of all classes of the population, including the 
students, thronged the church and prayed fervently for the 
Czar's life. The next day the people received the sad news 
that the Emperor had passed away. He died with beautiful 
equanimity, mindful only of the welfare of the dear ones 
left behind. 



MEMORIES OF ALEXANDER III 47 

The Emperor's body was taken from Yalta to St. Peters- 
burg. On the way it lay in state for a day at the Uspensky 
Cathedral in Moscow, whose inhabitants flocked to do final 
homage to their revered ruler. When the body reached 
the northern capital, there was a solemn procession from 
the station to the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul. The 
ceremonies were highly impressive, yet marked at every 
point with the noble simplicity which had characterized 
Alexander Ill's reign. Several times, once throughout the 
night, I was among those who stood guard over the Em- 
peror's body at the Cathedral and I saw the people come 
in masses to pay the last honours to their beloved monarch. 

Under the burden of grief of those days the Empress 
bore up wonderfully well. It was only toward the end of 
the Metropolitan's funeral sermon that she broke down for 
a little while and became somewhat hysterical, crying out 
"Enough ! Enough ! Enough !" When I visited her a 
short time afterwards, she received me very kindly, indeed, 
although she had treated me rather coldly after my mar- 
riage in 1892. I remember her saying to me on this occa- 
sion: "I believe you are deeply grieved by His Majesty's 
death, for he truly loved you." 

During his short rule Alexander III won for himself the 
esteem and gratitude of the whole world. It was his steady- 
ing influence that kept Europe at peace. The anxious eyes 
of the continent were fixed on Yalta as the Emperor's life 
ebbed, and when he passed away, everybody felt that a 
mighty power for good had departed from the earth. At 
his death all parties and factions, even the extreme radicals, 
joined in his praise. In truth, Alexander III was a great 
emperor and he amply merited his high position, for he was 
undoubtedly the noblest personality in the empire. 



CHAPTER III 

MY WORK AS MINISTER OF FINANCES 

WHEN I assumed the administration of the country's 
finances, we had not as yet recovered from the terrible 
famine of 1891, when the crops reached the lowest level 
known in the second half of the nineteenth century. The 
Treasury was practically empty. As the 2Oth of September 
(th'e 2Oth of the month is the pay-day in Russia) was ap- 
proaching, the Director of the Treasury informed me that 
'there was no money wherewith to pay the officials and 
troops. There was no other way out than to print several 
million rubles of paper money. When this was done, old 
Bunge, ex-Minister of Finances, paid me a visit and declared 
to me that I was entering upon a road which was bound to 
ruin Russia. I assured my visitor that this was a temporary 
and exceptional measure, necessitated by our desperate 
financial situation, but the venerable old statesman shook 
his head sceptically. 

Before taking up in detail my activity as Minister of 
Finances, I wish to say a word about my predecessor, Vysh- 
negradski. In the early part of 1892, he had an apoplectic 
fit. Although he was very reluctant to give up his work, he 
agreed to take a sick leave in the hope that he might re- 
cover his health. The administration of the ministry auto- 
matically passed into the hands of his associate, Terner, a 
man of rather limited Germanic intelligence and very high 
moral principles. Vyshnegradski's health did not improve, 
and when he came back he tendered his resignation and was 
appointed member of the Imperial Council. Two or three 

48 



MY WORK AS MINISTER OF FINANCES 49 

years later he sustained another fit, which proved fatal. 
Soon after Vyshnegradski's resignation I was appointed his 
successor (on August 30 / September n, 1892). 

Vyshnegradski knew his work thoroughly. He was cau- 
tious and prudent, but he lacked that breadth of imagina- 
tion which is so necessary in transacting business on a large 
scale. The following incident is characteristic of the 
methods he sometimes employed. 

Shortly before my appointment as Minister of Finances, 
Emperor Alexander III handed me a memorandum by 
Tzion charging Vyshnegradski with having taken graft to 
the amount of 500,000 francs from the Rothschild banking 
house at the conclusion of our loan in France. In spite of 
the document's presentation of authentic facsimiles from 
Rothschild's books indicating the payment of this sum to 
Vyhsnegradski, I expressed to His Majesty my unwilling- 
ness to lend any credence to the accusation. I stated that 
I could not believe in the possibility of such an act on the 
part of a Russian Minister of Finances, since, living, so to 
speak, in a glass house, his every move is constantly under 
the scrutiny of his subordinates. As the Emperor shared 
my views in the matter, no official action was taken, the note 
remaining in my possession. 

First I shall explain briefly the accuser's underlying mo- 
tive. Tzion, of Jewish origin, by the way, had been a 
professor of physiology under the famous Sechenov before 
entering the service of the Ministry of Finances under Bunge 
in the early '8o's. During those years our principal financial 
source was England, and, to a limited extent, Holland and 
Germany. As a consequence, however, of the policy of 
Franco-Russian rapprochement, inaugurated with Alex- 
ander Ill's ascension to the throne, the French financiers 
assumed an important role in this field. The first rela- 
tively large Russian loan to be floated in France was nego- 
tiated through Tzion by a financial group under the leader- 



5 

ship of Hoskier, an old-established but second-rate banker. 
Discovering some time afterwards that Tzion had received 
from this French syndicate a commission amounting to some 
200,000 francs, Vyshnegradski demanded and forced his 
resignation. As a result of this, Tzion harboured a bitter 
grudge against Vyshnegradski. 

The second Russian loan subscribed in France was 
handled by Vyshnegradski, and it was in connection with 
this transaction that Tzion presented his memorandum to 
the Emperor. Not long after taking up the duties of 
Minister of Finances, I succeeded in unravelling the mystery 
of the 500,000 francs in question. The details were re- 
vealed to me by a banker, Rothstein, who, together with 
Laskin, a Director of the International Bank, had acted as 
Vyshnegradski's agent in negotiating the loan. It appears 
that Vyshnegradski had insisted that the Hoskier group be 
invited to participate in the second loan, since he had given 
Hoskier a verbal promise that they would be asked to take 
part in any further loans contracted in France. Roths- 
child, however, flatly refused to allow Hoskier to share in 
the operation on the ground that he had never done, and 
did not wish to do, business with this banker. Vyshne- 
gradski was constrained to acquiesce, but at the conclusion 
of the negotiations he demanded a commission of 500,000 
francs. Rothstein, to whom the request was made, felt 
deeply mortified to find a Minister stooping to graft. 
Nevertheless, he and Laskin telegraphed to Rothschild and 
obtained his consent to meet Vyshnegradski's wishes. The 
next day they told Vyshnegradski that Rothschild had 
placed 500,000 francs to his credit. Rubbing his hands 
with glee, Vyshnegradski replied ironically: "Now, gentle- 
men, please be so kind as to take these 500,000 francs and 
distribute the sum among the members of the Hoskier group 
in proportion to their share in the first loan. You see, I 
gave my word to those people that they would be granted 



MY WORK AS MINISTER OF FINANCES 51 

an opportunity of participating. Since Rothschild and the 
others saw fit to dispose otherwise, I thought it only just 
that they should pay 500,000 francs to the Hoskier syndi- 
cate for the pleasure of excluding them." 

Astonished by this story, I asked Rothstein whether he 
could furnish proof of the actual distribution of the money 
to the members of the Hoskier group. In answer he sub- 
mitted the individual receipts. I showed them to the Em- 
peror, who was gratified to have conclusive proof of his 
Minister's integrity. His Majesty remarked, however, 
that Vyshnegradski's method in this case was improper, to 
say the least. 

In concluding my reminiscences of Vyshnegradski, I wish 
to say a word about his great fondness for arithmetical cal- 
culations of all sorts and his phenomenal memory for 
figures. On one occasion, in my presence, he read a page in 
a table of logarithms and then repeated it all from memory 
without making so much as a single mistake. 

To return to my administration of the Ministry of 
Finances, I wish to say that I enjoyed the privilege of hav- 
ing under me a number of gifted assistants. The cele- 
brated scientist Mendeleyev served in the capacity of Direc- 
tor of the Chamber of Measures and Weights. In recog- 
nition of his great scientific merits, I gave every possible 
assistance both to him and to the institution he headed. 
With his expert help I succeeded in considerably improving 
the Chamber. A very able and reliable assistant I had in 
the person of Malishevski, who at my instance was ap- 
pointed Director of the Credit Chancery, in spite of his 
being a patriotic Pole. The post of secretary of the De- 
partment of Economy was held by Kokovtzev. Later I 
promoted him to the office of my associate. 

Under my administration the Ministry grew greatly in ^ 
scope. In addition to financial matters proper, it came to 
include commerce and industry and also railroading in all 



^ 

N/N^ 



52 

its aspects, except the purely technical. This state of affairs 
had its obvious drawbacks, and so in 1905, at my sugges- 
tion, a separate Ministry of Commerce and Industry was 
formed, which included a railroad department. It happened 
that the Minister of Commerce mishandled the railroad 
tariffs to such an extent that it was found necessary to trans- 
fer the railroad affairs back to the Ministry of Finances. 

The construction of railroads fell entirely within the 
authority of my Ministry. In those years the Russian rail- 
road system was in a process of continuous and rapid 
growth. Naturally, the numerous concession seekers kept 
flocking to my reception room. Among them there were a 
great many members of our highest aristocracy. It was 
then that I found out of what inferior stuff all these people 
with ancient names were made. Unlimited greed seemed to 
be their chief characteristic. These men who at Court 
-^functions wore princely airs were ready to crawl on all 
fours in my office, provided they could thus obtain some 
financial advantage. For many years some of these scoun- 
drels and hypocrites have been holding the highest Court 
positions and, at least outwardly, they have been intimate 
with the Imperial family. 

Speaking of railroad building it must be borne in mind 
that in those years the Government was pursuing a con- 
sistent policy of railroad construction and operation by the 
State. This policy involved a series of transactions de- 
signed to redeem the privately owned roads and turn them 
over to the State. 

It will not be an exaggeration to say that the vast enter- 
prise of constructing the great Siberian Railway was carried 
out owing to my efforts, supported, of course first by Em- 
peror Alexander III, and then by Emperor Nicholas II. 
The idea of connecting European Russia with Vladivostok 
by rail was one of the most cherished dreams of Alexander 
III. He spoke to me about it in the course of one of my 






MY WORK AS MINISTER OF FINANCES 53 

first conferences with him following my appointment as 
Minister of Ways of Communication. As is known, Czar- 
evitch Nicholas, the present Emperor, during his trip 
through the Far East, inaugurated, on May 19, 1891, the 
construction of the Ussurian Railroad, connecting Vladi- 
vostok with Khabarovsk. The Emperor complained that 
in spite of his efforts, which extended over ten years, his 
dream had failed to materialize owing to the opposition of 
the Committee of Ministers and the Imperial Council. He 
took my promise that I would bend my energies to the 
accomplishment of his desire. 

In my capacity of Minister of Ways of Communication 
and later as Minister of Finances, both during the reign of 
Alexander III and afterwards, I persistently advocated the 
idea of the necessity of constructing the great Siberian Rail- 
way. As much as the former Ministers thwarted the plan, 
so I, remembering my promise to the Emperor, sought to 
advance it. As Minister of Finances, I was in a peculiarly 
favorable position with regard to furthering the project, 
for what was most needed for the construction of the rail- 
way was money. Had I remained Minister of Ways of 
Communication, I would have had to face the opposition 
of the Minister of Finances. 

I devoted myself body and soul to the task, yet Emperor 
Alexander III did not live to see the realization of his 
dream, and it was only under Nicholas II that the immense 
railroad was completed. I was aided by the circumstance 
that the young Emperor took a personal interest in the 
matter. At my instance, while his father was still alive, he 
was appointed head of the Siberian Railroad Committee, 
which I had formed to promote the construction of the rail- 
road. This committee was empowered to eliminate all man- 
ner of unnecessary delay and had the authority over both 
the administrative and the legislative matters involved in 
the construction. For the young heir-apparent this task 



54 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

was something in the nature of a preparatory school of 
statesmanship. He worked under the guidance of the 
vice president of the committee, Bunge, who was also his 
tutor. This was a very happy arrangement. The future 
ruler took his appointment in earnest and worked with 
enthusiasm. When he became Emperor, he retained the 
title of President of the Siberian Committee and did not 
lose his interest in the matter. This enabled me to com- 
plete the work within a few years. 

Soon after my appointment as Minister of Finances the 
Emperor told me on one occasion that in addition to the 
construction of the Trans-Siberian he wished to put in my 
charge another matter which had for a long time been on 
-jjiind, namely the reorganization of the vodka traffic. 
He also confided to me that the heavy drinking prevailing 
( among the people was a matter of great concern to him and 
that it was necessary to take some drastic measures to 
Vcurb it. 

This matter attracted the attention of the government 
at the end of the reign of Alexander II, but only half 
measures were taken, for it was considered that the existing 
system of vodka traffic, the so-called excise system, was the 
best possible, and that it was not advisable to change it in 
substance. As is known, under the excise system, the pro- 
duction and sale of alcohol and vodka are more or less free. 
The State merely controls the business to the extent of 
levying the excise, that is, an indirect tax upon the product. 
During the latter part of the reign of Alexander II, several 
conventions met to draft measures which, while not doing 
away with the excise system, would nevertheless restrict the 
freedom of selling alcoholic drinks. Since, however, the 
excise system is largely incompatible with substantial restric- 
tion upon vodka traffic, these measures came to nothing. 

Emperor Alexander III was anxious to help his people 
in this respect. After lengthy discussions he arrived at the 



MY WORK AS MINISTER OF FINANCES 55 

conclusion that palliatives would not avail; consequently, he 
resolved to effect a measure, absolutely unprecedented and 
vast in its scope, namely, the so-called vodka monopoly. Its 
basic idea is that the State has the monopoly of selling alco- 
holic drinks and that the production of those beverages 
must be limited to the amount sufficient to meet the needs 
of the State as the sole buyer. I do not know who orig- 
inated this plan. Some people attribute it to Katkov, the 
editor of a Moscow daily. I am inclined to the belief that 
the thought originated with the Emperor himself. 

Alexander III told me that he had spoken about this 
plan to Minister of Finances Bunge, but that the latter, as 
a learned financial expert, had found the project neither 
desirable nor feasible. Thus under Bunge nothing was 
done to reorganize the existing system. Nevertheless, the 
idea of the necessity for such a reorganization struck root 
in his administration. Bunge's successor, Vyshnegradski, 
was also approached by the Emperor on this subject, but 
his reply, although not altogether negative, was neverthe- 
less discouraging. Alexander III told me that he relied 
upon my youth, my character and my personal devotion to 
him, to take up this idea and carry it to a successful con- 
summation. Thus the introduction of the vodka monopoly 
was another great task bestowed upon me by the late sov- 
ereign. This task I succeeded in achieving while he was 
still alive. I transferred the entire vodka traffic into the 
hands of the government. The refinement of liquor also 
became a State monopoly. Only the production of the 
unpurified alcohol remained in the hands of private manu- 
facturers, but they could not produce more than the Gov- 
ernment specified. 

By 1903, when I left the Ministry of Finances, the vodka 
monopoly had been established nearly throughout the extent 
of Russia, except some of the distant border provinces. 
Nevertheless, the reform was not as yet entirely completed. 



5 6 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

The introduction of the monopoly was stubbornly opposed 
by the interests which suffered from the reform. Grand 
Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, Commander-in-Chief of the 
Guard, was assured, I remember, that on the day when the 
monopoly would be introduced in St. Petersburg bloody dis- 
turbances would break out in the city. The Grand Duke 
took up the matter with His Majesty and the latter began 
to hesitate as to whether the reform should be effected in 
the capital, although all the preparations for it had been 
completed. I succeeded, however, without difficulty in allay- 
ing the Emperor's alarm, the monopoly was introduced, and 
of course the city remained perfectly quiet. 

The vodka monopoly, as conceived by Alexander III, 
was essentially a measure intended to reduce the consump- 
tion of alcohol. In 1899, I travelled in the central prov- 
inces for the purpose of inspecting the work of introduc- 
ing the vodka monopoly, which was going on there. In 
my talks with the officials I emphasized the fact that the 
reform was designed not to increase the State income, but 
to reduce the consumption of alcohol, and that the activity 
of the officials would be judged not by the amount of in- 
come derived by the State from the monopoly but by the 
beneficent effect of the measure upon the morals and health 
of the people. But when the Japanese war broke out and 
Kokovtzev became Minister of Finances, he completely 
distorted the meaning of the reform. Under the pressure 
of the huge war expenditures he began to treat the monop- 
oly as a source of income for the State. To have the sale 
of vodka yield as large a profit as possible, was the sole 
purpose of his efforts in this direction. The amount of 
income derived from the monopoly became the measure of 
the worth of the excise officials. Not to restrict but to 
increase the consumption of vodka became the aim of the 
Government. Accordingly, no police measures were taken 
against drunkenness. The scale of prices was changed. 



MY WORK AS MINISTER OF FINANCES 57 

The prices became high enough to ruin the habitual con- 
sumers, but not so high as to render the vodka inaccessible 
to the masses. The number of vodka shops was doubled. 
During the war there was some justification for this policy, 
but when the war was over it was the Minister's duty to 
remember the late Emperor's original purpose in carrying 
out his vodka reform. 

Speaking of the vodka monopoly, I recall the opinion 
about it of an inspector of the French financial department, 
who accompanied me in my inspection tour through the 
central provinces. He believed that it was an admirable 
measure and that from the standpoint of the State it was 
likely to be highly beneficent. He was of the opinion that 
the reform could be applied in France with equal success. 
He was aware, however, he said, that only an absolute 
monarch of an unusually firm character could carry out such 
a measure in France. The Frenchman was perfectly right. 
No parliament will ever pass such a measure, for it is 
detrimental to the interests of too many moneyed people. 
During my recent prolonged stays in France I noticed that 
in the elections to the Chamber of Deputies a predominant 
part was played by people who in one form or another were 
financially interested in the liquor industry. 

Vyshnegradski bequeathed to me a bill providing for the 
responsibility of factory and mill owners for the death 
or injury of their employees. When the matter came up 
for discussion in the Imperial Council, Pobiedonostzev 
made a long speech against it, pointing out that the bill 
was socialistic in tendency. He asserted that in Russia the 
relationship between employers and employes was purely 
patriarchal, that the factory workers were substantially 
peasants who had lost their connection with the soil, and 
that the measure in question would tend to create a nomadic 
homeless proletariat. The other member of the Council 
who ^pokeligainst the bill was Polovtzev. He had invested 



58 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

his funds in industrial enterprises and was afraid that the 
proposed legislative act would reduce his profits. As I had 
not personally taken part in the drafting of the bill, I 
declared that, although I did not share Pobiedonostzev's 
opinions, I was ready to withdraw the project and revise it. 
In the course of my next audience with the Emperor (Nich- 
olas), he assured me that he was decidedly in favour of the 
factory law. On this occasion His Majesty warned me not 
to fall under Pobiedonostzev's spell. The latter, he said, 
was an excellent critic, but incapable of any constructive 
measure. For that reason, the Emperor said, he had long 
since ceased to heed Pobiedonostzev's counsels. 

I must say that, as a rule, His Majesty refused to support 
me in my efforts to organize a system of factory inspection. 
The latter had always been regarded by the Government 
with suspicion as a liberal institution inclined to uphold the 
rights of the workers against those of the employers. This 
suspicion was fostered by those of the factory owners who, 
being of noble birth, had access to those in power. In 
general, all the efforts to improve the lot of the factory 
workers in Russia by legislative means were strenuously 
opposed by the reactionaries. This policy naturally in- 
creased the friction between the workmen and their em- 
ployers and led to the spread of extreme views of a social- 
istic and revolutionary character among the city proletariat. 

My financial activities proper included, first of all, the 
conversion of our loans, transactions consisting in passing 
from loans at a higher rate of interest to loans at a lower 
rate. In addition to these very extensive financial opera- 
tions, I negotiated several direct loans, exclusively to cover 
the expenses of railroad construction and to increase our 
gold resources in connection with the introduction of the 
gold standard of currency. In all these enterprises I en- 
joyed the unqualified support of His Majesty. 

Among my purely financial reforms the first place be- 



MY WORK AS MINISTER OF FINANCES 59 

longs, no doubt, to the introduction of the gold standard 
of currency. This measure definitely established Russia's 
credit and put her financially on an equal footing with the 
European Powers. It was owing to this reform that we 
weathered the wretched Japanese War and the subsequent 
domestic upheaval. Without it, an economic and financial 
collapse would have occurred at the very beginning of the 
war, and all the economic achievements of the recent 
decades would have been annihilated. 

In a slight measure my immediate predecessors, Bunge 
and Vyshnegradski, prepared our finances for the introduc- 
tion of the gold standard, but it was left to me to elaborate 
a detailed and final plan for the currency reform. I worked 
against great odds, and if I succeeded in carrying the plan 
into effect it is because His Majesty, Emperor Nicholas, had 
full confidence in me and because he offered me his support 
without stint. 

In the beginning, nearly the whole of thinking Russia was 
opposed to the reform. Very few of our financial and eco- 
nomic experts had any theoretical or practical knowledge 
of the matter in its entirety. The subject was not taught 
in our institutions of higher learning, and there were no 
good books in Russian on currency problems. As we had 
lived under the regime of paper currency since the Crimean 
War, the very notion of metallic currency had become ob- 
scured in the press and in the minds of educated people 
generally. We had grown accustomed to paper currency as 
one gets used to chronic disease, in spite of the fact that 
gradually it ruins the organism. 

I was strenuously opposed by those elements of the popu- 
lation which were interested in the export of commodities, 
especially the farmers. They imagined that paper cur- 
rency was advantageous for them, because with the depreci- 
ation of our money they obtained more for their products 
exported abroad, i.e., in terms of our depreciated money. 



60 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 
I A 

, Of course, this opinion was erroneous, for the exporter had 
to pay higher prices for whatever he purchased. Not being 

{ an economist, he failed to grasp the correlation of phe- 
nomena. 

I received but scant help from my own subordinates. 
The chief reason why I selected Professor Antonovich as 
my associate was the fact that he had written a doctoral 
dissertation on Currency, in which he firmly advocated the 
metal standard. But I had overestimated the man's char- 
acter. He turned out to be more interested in his own 
career than in the fate of the currency reform. Noticing 
the strong opposition to the reform, he began to tergiver- 
sate and ended by expressing himself against it. 

Of course, there were people who realized the advan- 
tages of the metal standard of currency. Nevertheless, 
they opposed, fearing my energetic and resolute manner of 
action. Besides, among the advocates of the metallic stand- 
ard there was no uniformity of opinion as to whether gold, 
silver, or both should be made the basis of currency. To 
the bi-metallists abroad belonged Alphonse Rothschild, 
head of the Rothschild firm in Paris, and his friend, Leon 
Say, Minister of Finances under Thiers. It is noteworthy 
that the French Government did not hesitate to carry on 
an intrigue against my plan to make gold the standard of 
Russian currency. Through the French Ambassador in 
St. Petersburg, Meline, President of the French Cabinet 
of Ministers, transmitted to His Majesty two memoranda, 
one of his own composition, the other drafted by the well 
known economist Theyri. The two authors warned the 
Emperor that the introduction of the gold standard would 
ruin Russia. They advocated a bi-metallic standard, similar 
to the one which existed in France. Such an interference 
with our domestic affairs on the part of Meline I considered 
highly improper. Neither the Russian Emperor nor the 
Government stood in need of his advice. His Majesty 



MY WORK AS MINISTER OF FINANCES 61 

turned these memoranda over to me, without reading them. 

In interfering with my reform the French were prompted 
by purely selfish reasons. France had an enormous amount 
of silver money and she was much interested in raising the 
price of silver. If Russia had based its currency on both 
gold and the depreciated silver, the price of the latter 
metal would have risen and the wealth of France increased 
by hundreds of millions of francs. Fortunately, however, 
Russia did not enter the road pointed out by Meline, in spite 
of all the obstacles, the great reform, the glory of the 
present reign, was successfully carried out. 

I laid the bill for the introduction of the gold standard' 
of currency before the Imperial Council in April, 1896. The 
bill met a strong opposition, and it soon became clear to me 
that the Council would not pass the measure. I withdrew 
it and changed my tactics. When I felt that the time was 
ripe for the inauguration of the reform, I asked His Maj- 
esty to call a special session of the Financial Committee, 
which was then examining the details of the proposed re- 
form, under his own presidency and with the participation 
of some of the members of the Imperial Council, including 
Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolaievich, its president. At this 
extraordinary session, which took place on January 2 (14), 
1897, the Committee passed the bill, owing chiefly to His 
Majesty's confidence in me. The decree enacting the re- 
form was promulgated the following day. It may truly be 
said that Russia owes the gold standard solely to Nicholas 
II. 

Speaking of my currency reform, it is often asked why 
I based it on the depreciated ruble and why I did not adopt 
a smaller unit than the ruble. Nominally the ruble was 
worth four francs, but on January 3 (15), 1897, when the 
reform was enacted, the rate of exchange was 2.66 2-3 per 
ruble. To avoid a perturbation in the economic life of the 
country, I adopted the latter rate. As a result, the transi- 



62 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

tion to the new standard of currency passed practically 
unnoticed by the population. As for the desirability of 
adopting a smaller monetary unit, at one time I thought, 
indeed, of introducing a unit much lower in value than the 
ruble. That unit I christened "rus" and I went as far as 
having a sample "rus" coined. In the end, however, I 
gave up the idea of substituting the "rus" for the ruble, 
fearing the effect of the reform upon-j4re-4^ofanf"pieasant 
masses. The adoption of a smaller monetary unit would 
have, no doubt, lowered the cost of living, especially for the 
city population, but the country as a whole would hardly 
have profited by the substitution. 

The very first year of my administration of the Ministry 
was marked by an event which will no doubt be reckoned 
among my most notable achievements in statesmanship. I 
have in mind the conclusion of a commercial treaty with 
Germany. 

For a long time Germany's industrial products enjoyed 
free entry into Russia, enormous quantities being imported 
regularly without duty. The foundation of a protective 
tariff system for the Russian Empire was not laid until 
the concluding years of Alexander IPs reign, when customs 
dues were fixed on iron, steel and their manufactures. Nat- 
urally, this measure displeased the Germans, and protests 
came from many quarters, among others, from the great 
Bismarck, who was still Chancellor. Meeting Giers at a 
watering place shortly after the establishment of the new 
imposts, he touched upon the subject and warned him that 
such taxes on our part would provoke Germany to retaliate 
with tariffs on agricultural products and raw materials. 
The Iron Chancellor's remark is somewhat inaccurate and 
misleading. As a matter of fact, while it may be true that 
our moves hastened the raising of her tariff wall, Germany's 
import duties on farm products had been put into effect 
long before we took any action. The author and leader 



MY WORK AS MINISTER OF FINANCES 63 

of the protectionist movement in the German Empire was 
Frederick List, the famous economist, about whom, by the 
way, I wrote a brochure while I was Manager of the South- 
Western Railways. 

The principal reason for the long-continued absence of 
formal commercial treaties between the two empires is to 
be found in the intimate dynastic relations existing between 
them. It is well known that rivers of Russian blood were 
shed in the struggles connected with the aggrandizement 
of the Prussian Kingdom, which culminated in the welding 
together of the German Empire. When Alexander III 
ascended the Russian throne, however, he turned the 
ship of state toward France and our relations with Ger- 
many underwent a decided change. Alterations in the con- 
ditions of commercial intercourse between the two countries 
followed swiftly upon the political transition. It was at 
about this time, in 1891, to be exact, that we devised a 
scale of import duties, partly intended to counter the tariffs 
which Germany had already imposed upon agricultural 
products, especially upon wheat, but mainly designed to 
foster our domestic industries and eventually liberate us , 
from our extreme dependence upon Germany's manufac- 
tures. 



The immediate effect of these preliminary steps was a 
feeling of extreme irritation and dissatisfaction on both 
sides. We were particularly displeased because of Ger- 
many's evident discrimination against us in comparison with 
her treatment of other nations. Having instituted a double 
set of import duties, that is, a minimum and a maximum 
scale, Germany declared that all countries that had con- 
cluded, or were negotiating, commercial treaties with her 
would be charged the minimum rates, while all others 
would have to pay the maximum. Although this provision 
was couched in general terms, it was doubtlessly aimed 
directly and exclusively at us, for Russia was practically 



64 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

the only state of any consequence that had neither made, 
nor was engaged in drawing up, a mercantile agreement 
with the German Empire. Such unfair tactics worked a 
severe hardship upon us, as can be easily understood. If a 
country, say, Germany, collects a tax of 30 kopeks indis- 
criminately on every pood of imported grain, no matter 
from which foreign land it originates, then, while every 
exporter of this class of merchandise will be hampered to 
some extent, the burden will be proportionately distributed 
among all, so that none will be seriously harmed. When a 
certain country, for instance, Russia, is singled out, how- 
ever, and compelled to pay more than the others, for 
example 45 kopeks per pood, then a ruinous and unjust 
burden falls upon the disfavoured nation. Under such cir- 
cumstances it would be far better for Russian grain ex- 
porters to bear a levy of 60 or 80 kopeks, or even a whole 
ruble on every pood they sent to Germany, provided that 
the same duty was charged to all other countries. 

It is self-evident that the unfavourable conditions under 
which we laboured in this respect made it urgently desirable 
for us to conclude a commercial pact with the German Em- 
pire, all the more so because the informal agreements gov- 
erning our trade relations had another serious disadvantage 
for us. These irregular arrangements consisted of verbal 
promises and understandings interchanged between the 
rulers and their ministers. Now, the Germans insisted on 
the one hand upon interpreting our promises and conces- 
sions to them in the widest and most favourable sense pos- 
sible, while, on the other hand, they invariably managed to 
foist upon our authorities the most limited meaning of their 
own statements. Add to this the fact that our Government 
frequently forgot or neglected to utilize privileges granted 
to us. 

Although pourparlers looking toward a commercial 
treaty had been begun during Vyshnegradski's administra- 



MY WORK AS MINISTER OF FINANCES 65 

tion, nothing of any importance had resulted, largely, it 
seems, on account of the lack of interest and energy dis- 
played by the embassy officials through whom the negoti- 
ations were conducted. When I was appointed Minister of 
Finances, these listless consultations were still dragging on. 
At the time the German Ambassador to the Court of St. 
Petersburg was General Werder. In spite of the fact that 
the Emperor was very favourably disposed toward him, 
General Werder played a very insignificant role by reason 
of his want of political ability, and he took no part at all in 
the formulation of our trade compact. Count Pavel Shu- 
valov, our Minister in Berlin, was a man of much higher 
calibre. As an adjutant-general he had distinguished him- 
self in our war with Turkey during the 70'$. He had en- 
joyed an excellent education, and besides possessing tact 
and social charm, his otherwise Russian nature was gifted 
with characteristic Polish shrewdness, doubtlessly inherited 
from his mother, who was of Polish origin. Count Shuva- 
lov made an extremely successful ambassador and was 
highly esteemed by the German Emperor. When it came 
to negotiating a commercial treaty, however, he could make 
no headway, his enthusiasm and diligence notwithstanding. 
This failure can be attributed to two causes. In the first 
place, he was much too eager to avoid all the disagreeable 
international friction and personal clashes inevitably inci- 
dent to transactions of this sort. In the second place, 
economic problems were altogether alien to his personality 
and consequently out of his sphere of useful activity. In 
order to provide competent assistance for Shuvalov, we sent 
Vasili Ivanovich Timiryazev, who later became Minister of 
Commerce and Industry and is now a member of the Im- 
perial Council. Timiryazev, Vice-Director of the Depart- 
ment of Commerce and Industry at the time, certainly knew 
his business. Unfortunately, while he possessed the ability 
to negotiate, he lacked the proper point of view to attain 



66 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

success. Furthermore, he made his keen anxiety to effect 
a compact so apparent to the Germans that they took ad- 
vantage of it, assuming a very bold stand and offering us 
practically no concessions though demanding every conceiv- 
able privilege for themselves. 

Germany made audacious use of her double-scale tariff 
in the preliminary conferences with us. In effect she said to 
us: "If you will grant us all the privileges we are asking, 
your goods will be admitted subject to the minimum rates; 
otherwise you must continue submitting to the maximum." 
Nothing more than this was offered to us in return for the 
many concessions demanded, and it must be borne in mind 
with regard to this that the minimum duties were by no 
means light. Finding myself faced with this manoeuvre 
upon undertaking direction of the negotiations as Minister 
of Finances, I quickly decided that only by employing 
Germany's own tactics against her could we secure an equi- 
table agreement. Accordingly I requested His Majesty, 
Emperor Alexander III, to permit me to put a double scale 
tariff through the Imperial Council, retaining the existing 
rates as the minimum and adding approximately 20 percent 
to form the new maximum level. Since the blow was aimed 
at Germany, the increases were levied almost solely on 
industrial articles which she was exporting to Russia. 

When introduced into the Imperial Council, this meas- 
ure caused a great stir. In general the members feared 
that a sharp move of this sort was bound to lead to diplo- 
matic, and, possibly, military complications. In addition 
there was a spirited protest from Giers, our Minister of 
Foreign Affairs, on the ground that a step thus seriously 
affecting our external relations should not have been taken 
without his previous consultation and assent. Then, too, 
my vigorous action produced great excitement in Berlin, 
and Count Shuvalov transmitted a pointed report to St. 
Petersburg, criticizing me severely and warning of impend- 



MY WORK AS MINISTER OF FINANCES 67 

ing diplomatic difficulties. Despite threats from abroad 
and misgivings at home, I resolutely insisted upon the pass- 
age of the measure. In my stand in this matter I enjoyed 
the Emperor's unqualified support. His Majesty paid no 
heed to the pretensions of Foreign Minister Giers and 
ordered Shuvalov to be informed that the Throne had com- 
plete confidence in me and extended entire approval to my 
actions. Before the Imperial Council I argued that the act 
was merely an emergency one, intended more for persua- 
sive effect than for retaliatory execution. I pointed out that 
Germany, seeing two could play at her game, would im- 
mediately realize the futility of her unfair tactics and as- 
sume a reasonable attitude. Thanks to the logical sound- 
ness of my position and to the Emperor's powerful support, 
the measure went through the Imperial Council without 
delay. 

We were now able to say to Germany: "Unless you agree 
at once to charge us the minimum rates, we will subject to 
the new maximum tariffs all German goods imported into 
Russia. If you consent to place us thus on the same level with 
other nations, we shall then be glad to negotiate a com- 
mercial treaty with you on a just basis of take and give." 
Such was, in fact, the proposition we laid before them. 
Our Teutonic neighbours, thinking, it seems, that I would 
not dare to carry out my program, brazenly pursued their 
original methods. Without the least hesitation I cut short 
the commercial pourparlers and ordered the immediate im- 
position of the maximum duties on German goods. Our 
adversaries swiftly retorted by raising the maximum rates 
already in effect against Russian products. We straight- 
way went them one better. And so we found ourselves en- 
gaged in an extremely bitter tariff war. I had no doubt 
whatever that we would emerge the victors in this bloodless 
strife, since in such a struggle a country like Russia, little 
advanced in manufacturing, could endure much more than 



68 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

a highly developed industrial nation like Germany, whose 
very existence is dependent upon a quick commercial turn- 
over. 

The tense situation at this time, when mercantile rela- 
tions between Germany and Russia had practically ceased, 
did not fail to cause some alarm. I can perhaps give no 
better illustration of the prevailing feeling than the gen- 
eral attitude evinced toward me at a celebration of Empress 
Maria Feodorovna's name's-day in Peterhof on July 22, 
1894. A national holiday had been declared, and the no- 
bility, government officials and court attendants thronged 
the great palace, where the grand mass, thanksgiving prayer 
and procession were to be held. When I entered the great 
hall, almost everybody moved away from me and shunned 
me as though I were some gruesome plague carrier. Dark 
rumours flew about that I, through my temerity and light- 
headedness, had dragged Russia to the brink of war with 
Germany, that the latter's inflexibility would inevitably re- 
sult in a conflict which was bound to precipitate all of 
Europe into a sanguinary struggle. 

I cannot forget that, besides His Majesty, the only prom- 
inent government official to stand by me at this crisis was 
Piotr Semyonovich Vannovski, our Minister of War. He 
understood the necessity of showing decisiveness and firm- 
ness if we were ever to rid ourselves of Germany's over- 
weening behaviour. In connection with this lack of official 
support I must say that the opposition was not all due to 
fear of embroilment with Germany. Many of my antago- 
nists were undoubtedly moved by a desire to frighten the 
Emperor into withdrawing his approval of my actions, thus 
abandoning me to certain failure and lasting discredit. 
Their best endeavours were all in vain, however, for Alex- 
ander III was not the man to be taken in by such a strata- 
gem and he upheld me to the end without faltering. 

Our steadfastness was crowned with success before long, 



MY WORK AS MINISTER OF FINANCES 69 

for Germany, notwithstanding her loud protestations at the 
outset, requested a renewal of negotiations. Pourparlers 
were accordingly resumed in Berlin, not, however, before 
Germany had placed us upon the same basis as other 
favoured nations in return for our withdrawal of the new 
maximum duties. 

Germany acted through Caprivi, Bismarck's successor as 
Chancellor of Germany, and Marschall von Bieberstein, 
the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, who was later appointed 
Minister to Constantinople after Caprivi's retirement. On 
our side the transactions were conducted by Timiryazev and 
other attaches of my ministry. It is important to note that 
our representatives in Berlin acted merely as agents, no 
decisions being made except under my orders and instruc- 
tions or with my permission and consent. Count Shuvalov, 
our Ambassador in Berlin, played no role on this occasion. 
When Germany acceded to our demands, he frankly admit- 
ted that he had been wrong in his estimate of the situation. 
We were always good friends after that, both during the 
remainder of his ambassadorship and during the time he 
was GovernorXjeneral of Poland. When he suffered an 
apoplectic stroke during his tenure of this post, he was re- 
tired and appointed a member of the Imperial Council. 

The commercial treaty finally drawn up by the conferees 
was without doubt advantageous and just to both parties. 
The Germans, however, were bitterly disappointed with it 
on account of their original expectations of having every- 
thing their own way. Our vigour, our determination and 
our success in securing an equal share of the concessions 
and privileges was a rude shock to those who had set their 
hearts on the lion's share. There was much talk of serious 
opposition in the Reichstag, but it did not materialize and 
the compact was ratified with no modifications worth men- 
tioning. It was our first commercial treaty with Germany 
and we had good reason to be well satisfied with it. The 



70 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

agreement included certain political features intimately re- 
lated to the execution of the trade arrangements. 

Throughout the transactions Emperor Wilhelm II of 
Germany acted with tact and good will. As soon as he 
realized that I was in earnest and enjoyed the Russian Em- 
peror's confidence and support, he adopted a very con- 
ciliatory attitude and exercised his influence over the minis- 
ters and the Reichstag for a peaceful solution. To one 
unacquainted with the real cause, it may, therefore, seem 
strange that the German Emperor should have dismissed 
Caprivi apparently on account of dissatisfaction with this 
very treaty. In point of fact, Wilhelm II merely seized 
upon the treaty as an opportune pretext. He availed him- 
self of a good chance to kill two birds with one stone. By 
discharging Caprivi he pleased the Junkers, who were en- 
raged at the outcome of the negotiations, and at the same 
time he gracefully disposed of a chancellor who was, in the 
Imperial estimation, disgracefully peaceable and danger- 
ously liberal. Caprivi was made a Count and Hohenlohe 
was appointed in his place. 

Emperor Alexander III was highly content with my 
conduct of the negotiations and their successful termina- 
tion. I could easily have obtained a title as a reward, and 
in reality the Emperor himself broached the subject to me. 
Now, the German Ambassador had, shortly before that, 
paid me a visit, in the course of which he had hinted broadly 
that His Majesty, Emperor Wilhelm II, would be de- 
lighted to be presented with the Russian admiral's uniform. 
Evidently I was expected to convey Wilhelm's wish to 
Alexander III. Therefore, when His Majesty mentioned 
honours to me on this occasion, I said: "If Your Highness 
will permit me to express an opinion in this matter, I wish 
to state that I think it would be an excellent idea to bestow 
the Russian admiral's uniform upon Emperor Wilhelm II 
in appreciation of his liberality during the transactions." 



MY WORK AS MINISTER OF FINANCES 71 

Smiling good-naturedly, His Majesty answered: "Your 
desire shall be fulfilled at the first convenient opportunity. 
Wilhelm has, indeed, behaved very tactfully in this in- 
stance. For the first time I have found him sincerely anx- 
ious to avoid a break with us." Emperor Alexander III 
evidently did not take this request very seriously, as decora- 
tive conceit was altogether foreign to his character. In 
Wilhelm II, on the contrary, this trait is very prominent 
and he esteems nothing more highly than uniforms, orders, 
medals and titles. As a result of Alexander Ill's death 
shortly after his promise, the German Emperor was con- 
strained to wait several years for the coveted uniform. 
When Nicholas II ascended the throne, I told him about 
this conversation and the deceased Emperor's promise. 
Nicholas listened with a smile but deigned no reply. A 
few years later he presented the admiral's uniform to Wil- 
helm II. Whether the matter had slipped his mind during 
all that time, whether the Kaiser's request was renewed or 
whether Nicholas II had some special reason of his own 
for making the gift at last, I do not know. All this, by the 
way, happened before the Russo-Japanese War, while the 
Russian naval uniform still enjoyed great prestige. 

The negotiation of this commercial treaty was my debut 
on the stage of world politics. Everybody in Europe was 
surprised at the performance. A short while afterwards 
Harden, the German writer and publicist, came to St. 
Petersburg to make my acquaintance. He was on intimate 
terms with Bismarck, paid him frequent visits and some- 
times set forth his views in newspaper and magazine 
articles. In his conversation with me Harden stated that 
he had come to see me at the suggestion of Bismarck, who 
had said to him : "It will be well worth your while to go 
and get acquainted with that man. He is the first one I 
have ever heard of during the last decade who knows what 
he wants and has the character and will power to get it. 



72 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

You will see him achieve a great career as a statesman." 
Bismarck recognized that I had won a cleancut victory over 
German diplomacy. On parting with Harden I said to 
him: "When you see Bismarck again, tell him that I was 
highly flattered to hear his good opinion of me, especially 
his prophecy regarding my future." I never had an oppor- 
tunity of meeting Bismarck, but I have been told by Count 
Shuvalov and Count M. N. Muraviov, at that time Coun- 
sellor to our Embassy in Berlin and later Minister of 
Foreign Affairs in Russia, that the old Chancellor was al- 
ways very much interested in me and never failed to talk 
about me with the Russians he met. 

This first commercial treaty between Russia and Ger- 
many, concluded in 1894, formed the basis of succeeding 
treaties with other countries, both for ourselves and for 
Germany. The duration of the agreement was fixed at ten 
years. The expiration of this period found us engaged in 
the diasastrous war with Japan and at a stage when the 
unfavourable outcome for Russia was already clear. Un- 
scrupulously taking advantage of our unfortunate situation, 
Germany refused to renew the compact under the same 
conditions and extorted from us highly important conces- 
sions, which we certainly should never have yielded to her 
under normal conditions. 

The economic wealth and consequently the political 
strength of a country depend upon three factors: natural 
resources, capital, and labour, physical and intellectual. 
With regard to natural resources, Russia is extremely rich, 
although she is unfavourably situated because of the rigor- 
ous climate in many of her sections. In capital, that is, 
accumulated values, she is poor, for the reason that the 
history of the country is a continuous chain of wars, not to 
speak of other reasons. Considering her population, she is 
rich in physical labour and also in intellectual resources, for 
the Russians are a gifted, sensible, and God-fearing people. 






MY WORK AS MINISTER OF FINANCES 73 

All these factors of production are intimately correlated in 
the sense that only their concerted and coordinated action 
can produce wealth. At present, owing to the development 
of communication, natural resources are easily transported, 
and owing to the growth of international credit, capital is 
even more easily shifted. In view of this, labour has ac- 
quired an exceptional importance in the creation of wealth. 
It follows that I had to give especial attention to the de- 
velopment of both capital and labour. In the first place, 
it was necessary to stabilize the national credit. I hope 
that financial history will acknowledge the fact that never 
did Russian credit stand higher in both domestic and inter- 
national money markets than at the time when I was Min- 
ister of Finances. It was not my fault that our military 
adventures have so thoroughly injured our credit. The 
other day I read in some Russian papers arguments to the 
effect that it does not matter to the foreign bankers and 
holders of our securities what regime prevails in our coun- 
try, provided an end is put to anarchy. This is rather a 
naive idea. It is of the utmost importance to both the 
foreign and the domestic investor that we should have a 
governmental regime under which adventures like the Jap- 
anese War would be impossible, and that the nation should 
cease to become the object of experiments in the hands of 
a self-seeking and irresponsible court camarilla. Our credi- 
tors can have no faith in a regime under which they lost 
twenty per cent, of their investments. 

During my administration of the country's finances, I 
increased the state debt approximately nineteen hundred 
million rubles, and I spent even more on railroads and 
amortization of the debts of the Imperial Bank for the 
purpose of restoring the gold standard of our currency. 
Thus the money borrowed was expended for productive 
purposes exclusively. That money has increased the coun- 
try's capital. 



74 

Owing to the confidence of foreign capital in Russia's 
* credit, which I built up, our country obtained several billion 
A (J^-rubles of foreign capital. There are people, and their 
number is not small, who hold this against me. Oh, folly 
and ignorance! No country has ever developed without 
foreign capital. Throughout my administration I have 
defended the idea of the usefulness of foreign capital. In 
this respect, I had to contend with such statesmen as I. N. 
Durnovo, Plehve, and other members of the Committee of 
Ministers. Nicholas, as usual, favoured now one, now the 
other viewpoint. He went as far as calling a special session 
to discuss the advisability of importing foreign capital. At 
this session I declared that I was not afraid of foreign 
capital, that on the contrary I considered it beneficial for 
Russia. What I feared, I said, was that our regime is so 
peculiar that but few foreigners would care to have any- 
thing to do with us. Of course, foreign capital would have 
entered the country more abundantly if so many obstacles 
had not been created against it during my administration. 

A great many people, including the Emperor, opposed 
the importation of foreign capital to Russia for purely 
nationalistic considerations. They argued that Russian 
natural resources should be exploited by "true" Russians 
and with the aid of Russian money. They overlooked the 
fact that the amount of available capital in Russia was very 
small. As a result, industrial concessions were usually 
granted to "true" Russians, who subsequently sold them to 
foreigners and pocketed a round sum of totally unearned 
money. Thus, for instance, I recall that a certain retired 
Colonel, by the name of Vonlyarlyarski, obtained a conces- 
sion for mining gold on the Kamchatka Peninsula. Several 
months later he sold it to a foreign corporation. 

The development of our national labour was another 
great problem. The productivity of Russian labour is ex- 
ceedingly low, this being due to the climate, among other 



MY WORK AS MINISTER OF FINANCES 75 

reasons. For the latter reason, tens of millions are idle 
several months during the year. The scarcity of ways of 
communication is another factor lowering the productivity 
of labour. After the Turkish War of the '70*5 railroad 
construction was suspended, and it fell to my lot to resume 
the building of railways. In this respect, I have succeeded 
in achieving a good deal, for during my administration I 
doubled the railroad mileage. It is noteworthy that the 
Ministry of War was constantly thwarting my efforts. This 
Ministry supported me only when I proposed to build rail- 
roads of a strategic importance. Often strategic railroads 
were built counter to my recommendation. Besides, the 
direction of non-strategic railroads was often distorted to 
suit the purposes of the War Ministry. In this respect, 
General Kuropatkin, and especially the former Chief of 
Staff Obruchev, did a great deal of harm. The latter was 
a gifted and well-educated man, but strategic railroads were 
his monomania. It often happened that the railroads 
which, at the moment of their construction, were recog- 
nized as of strategic importance, two or three years later 
were declared to have no such importance. 

Thus I strained every effort to develop a railroad net. 
Military considerations, with which his Majesty often nat- 
urally sided, prevented me from building the lines most 
productive economically. As a result, the system yielded a 
deficit. 

After dealing with the railroads for forty years, I can 
say that in most cases the strategic considerations of our 
War Ministry regarding the direction of the road are pure 
fantasy. The country will be best off if, in building rail- 
roads, it is guidecL-by--purely .econmr considerations. On 
the whole, such railroads would also meet the strategic 
needs. It is my opinion that this should become a basic 
principle of railroad construction. For thirty years we 
were building railroads with a view to a war in the West, 




76 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

and we have wasted no end of energy in that section. In 
the end the war broke out in the Far East. 

To create new sources for the application of labour, it 
was more than desirable to develop our industry. Alex- 
ander the Third, with his characteristic firmness and wis- 
dom, was the first to recognize and carry out this policy. 
In this respect I was his faithful assistant. It was impera- 
tive to develop our industries not only in the interest of the 
people, but also of the State. A modern body politic can- 
not be great without a well-developed national industry. 
As Minister of Finances, I was also in charge of our com- 
merce and industry. As such, I increased our industry 
threefold. This again is held against me. Foolsr! It is 
said that I took artificial measures to develop our industry. 
What a silly phrase! How else can one develop an indus- 
try? Whatever men do is to a certain extent artificial, 
The measures taken by me were much less artificial and 
drastic than those practised by many foreign countries. 
The only thing I did was to support the protectionist tariff 
introduced by Vyshnegradski under Alexander III. This 
I did in the face of a strenuous opposition on the part of 
the large landowners. All my efforts to facilitate the 
formation of joint-stock companies were systematically 
thwarted by the Ministry of the Interior and Plehve par- 
ticularly. I have also been blamed for having issued indus- 
trial loans from the Imperial Bank. In reality, these loans 
amounted only to some 50,000,000 rubles. Besides, a con- 
siderable portion of this sum was lent, without my approval, 
to members of the court camarilla or their friends. I must 
say that but few people in Russia grasped the full signifi- 
cance of my work of building up the nation's industries. 
Among those few, be it mentioned in passing, was Men- 
deleyev, our great scientist and my life-long friend. 

Railroad construction and industrial expansion diverted 
some four or five million men from agriculture, thus increas- 



MY WORK AS MINISTER OF FINANCES 77 

ing, so to speak, the country's land resources by 20,000,000 
to 25,000,000 desiatins. Much more will have to be done 
in the future to fertilize Russian labour. The very condi- 
tions under which the people live and work will have to be 
changed. At present a Russian works as he drinks. While 
he drinks less than a member of any other nationality, he 
gets drunk more frequently. While he works less, he over- 
works himself more frequently than anyone else. 

Until 1905 matters pertaining to industry and commerce 
were within the province of the Ministry of Finances. In 
my capacity of director of that Ministry, I did a great deal 
to promote commercial and industrial education. Owing 
to my efforts the system of secondary commercial schools 
was considerably extended. I also conceived and carried 
out the plan of founding a number of polytechnical insti- 
tutes, that is, institutions of higher learning teaching all 
the branches of commercial and technical knowledge. In 
1899 I raised the question of opening such a school in St. 
Petersburg. With the aid of my assistants I drew up the 
statutes of the Polytechnic, and had them approved by the 
Imperial Council not without difficulty. It was argued 
that we had our hands full with the schools of higher learn- 
ing already in existence, and that the new Polytechnic would 
be an additional hotbed of unrest. I succeeded in opening 
two more such schools, one in Kiev, the other in Warsaw. 

During my administration of the country's finances, their 
condition left nothing to be desired. Not only did we have 
no deficit, but each year there was a considerable excess of 
State income over State expenditures. This circumstance 
enabled me to keep in the Treasury large sums of free cash 
amounting at times to several hundred million rubles. This 
policy of mine was oftentimes criticized. It was pointed 
out that neither France, England or Germany kept unem- 
ployed cash in their state treasuries and it was argued that 
it would be much more advisable to invest these funds profit- 




78 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

ably. My critics merely demonstrated their ignorance of 
Russia's national economics. Given the Russian Empire's 
huge foreign debts, by far exceeding the indebtedness of 
any of the above-cited Western countries, it was necessary 
to keep a reserve fund in order to check, in a case of emer- 
gency, a panicky fall of Russian securities abroad. It must 
also be taken into consideration that Russia is essentially 
an agricultural country. The year's crops, its chief wealth, 
depend on the capricious elements and are an uncertain 
factor. This again necessitates the keeping of a reserve 
fund in anticipation of the lean years. I must also say that 
I was prompted to keep large sums of free cash in the 
Treasury by the feeling, which never left me after the ascen- 
sion of Emperor Nicholas to the throne, that sooner or 
later a bloody drama would be staged in this or that part 
of the country. 

When I left the post of Minister of Finances, the free 
cash funds in the Treasury amounted to 380,000,000 
rubles. This sum enabled the Empire to exist without a 
loan when the Russo-Japanese War broke out soon after- 
wards. It also enabled us, later, to conclude a loan on 
terms more favourable than we would have been forced to 
accept, had we not been in a position, thanks to this cash 
surplus, to make the world feel that our need was not urgent 
and immediate. 

His Majesty expressed his appreciation of my work in 
an Imperial rescript, dated January i, 1903, on the occasion 
of the tenth anniversary of my service as Minister of 
Finances : 

Sergey Yulyevich ! 

Ten years ago my Father, now resting in God, summoned you 
to the post of Minister of Finance. Despite the burdensome conse- 
quences of the bad harvest of 1891, you undertook with firm faith in 
the economic power of the Russian State and with persistent energy 
the task of rehabilitating the Russian finances, begun by your prede- 



MY WORK AS MINISTER OF FINANCES 79 

cessor; and you had the consolation of justifying the confidence and 
meriting the gratitude of Emperor Alexander III. 

Now with the lapse of a decade of your activity as Minister of 
Finances, I take pleasure in expressing my appreciation to you of all 
that you have done within the past eight years to justify my con- 
fidence as well. With equal faith in the energies of the Russian 
people, and with equal devotion to the throne, not alone did you 
lighten my efforts to realize my chief cares relating to the strength- 
ening of the country's power and defence and the prosperity of the 
State entrusted to me by God, but also you aroused to spontaneous 
activity the best forces of Russia. You solidified the independence 
and stability of the currency, increased the resources of the Treasury, 
thereby enabling us from year to year to meet the demands of the 
growing budget, and aside from your varied official duties, you have 
executed to my complete satisfaction the task which I imposed upon 
you of instructing my Heir and beloved Brother, Grand Duke Mik- 
hail Alexandrovich in state economy. 

Hoping for the further continuation of your service, so useful 
to the State and to me, at the head of the Ministry entrusted to 
you, I remain 

Unalterably well-disposed* to you, 

(Signed) NICHOLAS. 

In the meantime the clique headed by Bezobrazov and 
Plehve was vigorously pushing its militaristic plots in the 
Far East and the Emperor was gradually falling under the 
influence of those unscrupulous men. In 1903 it became 
clear to me that war with Japan was inevitable. Whenever 
the Far-Eastern adventure came up for discussion, I se- 
verely condemned it. I admit, in fact, that the language 
I used in His Majesty's presence was often too sharp. The 
Emperor went even as far as endeavouring to win me over 
to his side, but his efforts were in vain. 

I felt that if, under these circumstances, I continued to 
hold my ministerial post, the entire blame for the impend- 
ing war would have been placed upon me. Russia knew my 
temperament and the firmness of my character, and the 
public would refuse to believe that I had remained a mem- 

* On the original His Majesty wrote in his hand "and thankful". 



8o THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

her of the Government although opposed to its military 
policy. On the other hand, it was obvious to me that, since 
I completely disagreed with the course of action espoused 
by the Emperor, he could not very well let me hold one of 
the most important posts in the Government. 

On August 1 6 (29), 1903, I received a note from the 
Emperor asking me to report to him the following morning 
at Peterhof and take along Pleske, Director of the Imperial 
Bank. The request came to me as a complete surprise. I 
suspected that His Majesty intended to appoint Pleske to 
some post, but I could not understand why the Emperor's 
choice should have fallen on this man, with whom he was 
not personally acquainted. Pleske called on me in the 
morning and we went together to Peterhof. I left him in 
the reception room and entered the Emperor's study. His 
Majesty received me graciously. The audience lasted about 
an hour. I reported to him several plans and asked his 
permission to make a trip in some of the provinces where 
the vodka monopoly was just then being introduced. His 
Majesty approved of my desire to see personally that the 
important reform was carried out. Finally, when I rose 
to take leave, the Emperor asked me whether I had brought 
Pleske. I replied in the affirmative. "What do you think 
of him?" the Czar continued. I said tnat I had the highest 
opinion of the man. In fact, I thought very highly of 
Pleske both as a man and a financial expert. All through 
my administration he was one of my nearest assistants. 

"Sergey Yulyevich," the Emperor said after a pause, "I 
should like to ask you to accept the post of President of the 
Committee of Ministers; as your successor I wish to appoint 
Pleske." I could not conceal my surprise at this sudden 
decision. "Are you dissatisfied with this new appoint- 
ment?" His Majesty then said, seeing my astonishment: 
"Don't forget, the post of President of the Committee of 
Ministers is the highest office in the Empire." I assured 



MY WORK AS MINISTER OF FINANCES 81 

the Emperor that if this appointment was not a sign of 
disfavour I was glad of it, but that I thought I had a greater 
opportunity to be useful in my former capacity than at my 
new post. I took leave of the Emperor and left his study. 



CHAPTER IV 

DEALING WITH LI HUNG CHANG 

TOWARD the end of the reign of Alexander III, rela- 
tions between Japan and China became extremely strained, 
and finally war broke out between the two countries. At 
that time we had but few troops in the Far East. JDur s 
detachments stationed at Vladivostok were moved toCjCirijy 1 
for fear that military operations might spread northward 
and affect Russian possessions or interests. That was the 
only step we took. The war ended in Japan's complete 
victory. By the peace of Shimonoseki (1895), as is known, 
the Japanese acquired the peninsula of Liaotung, including 
the harbours ofC^Ing-Kgw* and Port Arthur, and secured 
various other advantages. 

With the exception of two serious misunderstandings, 
good neighbourly relations have existed between China and 
Russia for the past two and a half centuries. This tradi- 
tional friendship found expression in connection with 
Japan's exactions at Shimonoseki. In those years very few 
statesmen in Russia had a clear notion about Korea, Japan, 
and, especially, China and their mutual relations. Prince 
Lobanov-Rostovski, Foreign Minister, knew no more about 
the Far East than the average schoolboy. Inasmuch as I 
was in charge of the construction of the Trans-Siberian 
Railway, I gave a good deal of attention to Far-Eastern 
affairs. In fact, I was the only Russian statesman familiar 
with the economic and political situation in that region. 

The peace of Shimonoseki we justly regarded with alarm. 
It gave Japan a footing on the continent, in the neighbour- 

82 



DEALING WITH LI HUNG CHANG 83 

hood of our own sphere of interest. Emperor Nicholas, 
who had in the meantime ascended the throne, was anxious 
to spread Russian influence in the Far East. Not that he 
had a definite program of conquest. He was merely pos- 
sessed by an unreasoned desire to seize Far-Eastern lands. 
As for myself, I clearly saw that it was to Russia's best 
mterestsJ.oJiayc as its neighbour a strong but passive China, 
and that therein lay the assurance of Russia's safety in the 
East. Therefore, it appeared obvious to me that it was 
imperative not to allow Japan to penetrate into the very 
heart of China and secure a footing in the Liao-tung penin- 
sula, which to a certain extent occupies a dominating posi- 
tion/ Accordingly, I insisted on the necessity of thwarting 
the execution of the peace treaty between Japan and China. 
To discuss the matter a conference was called by His 
Majesty under the presidency of Admiral-General Grand 
Duke Alexey Alexandrovich. At this conference I advo- 
cated the principle of the integrity of the Chinese Empire. 
Russia's best interests demanded, I pointed out, that China 
remain unchanged and that no power be allowed to increase 
its territorial possessions at China's expense. I was sup- 
ported by Minister Vannovski. Obruchev's attitude was 
rather indifferent, for he was exclusively interested in mili- 
tary possibilities in the West. The other members of the 
conference expressed no definite opinion. 

When we came to discuss the practical ways and means 
whereby the policy I had recommended could be carried 
out, I proposed to present to Japan an ultimatum to the 
effect that we could not suffer her to violate the principle of 
the unity and territorial integrity of the Chinese Empire 
and that we could not, therefore, agree to the treaty con- 
cluded between Japan and China. I suggested that we \ 
ought to permit Japan, as the victorious nation, to recover 
her war expenditures by imposing a more or less consider- 
able indemnity upon China. Should Japan fail to comply 



8 4 

with our demands, there was no other course left to us, 
I said, than to open active operations. I did not explain 
the exact nature of the measures which I proposed to take, 
but it was my opinion that we might go as far as bombard- 
ing some of the Japanese ports. Although I clearly formu- 
lated my policy and made definite recommendations as to 
the practical means for its execution, the conference ended 
in nothing. All the while Prince Lobanov-Rostovski held 
his peace. 

Thereupon the Emperor called a conference under his 
own presidency, to which he invited only General Vannovski, 
Prince Lobanov-Rostovski, Grand Duke Alexey Alexandro- 
vich and myself. In the presence of His Majesty I reiter- 
ated my opinion and, as it met practically no opposition, 
the Emperor accepted my suggestions. This special com- 
mittee on Sino-Japanese affairs reached the following con- 
clusions on March 30, 1895: 

(i) To seek to preserve the status quo ante bellum in 
northern China and in pursuance of this to advise Japan, 
at first amicably, to desist from the occupation of southern 
Manchuria, for such an occupation would injure our inter- 
ests and would be a constant menace to the peace of the Far 
East; in case of Japan's refusal to follow our advice, to 
declare to the Japanese Government that we reserve to our- 
selves freedom of action and that we shall act in accord- 
ance with our interests. 

(2) To issue an official statement to the European 
Powers and to China to the effect that, while on our part 
we do not seek any seizures, we deem it necessary, for the 
protection of our interests, to insist on Japan's desisting 
from the occupation of southern Manchuria. 

His Majesty instructed our Foreign Minister to carry 
out this program. Prince Lobanov-Rostovski must be given 
credit for the skill with which he acquitted himself of his 
task. He immediately secured the agreement of Germany 



DEALING WITH LI HUNG CHANG 85 

and France to Russia's demand, whereupon he hastened to 
send our ultimatum to Japan. The latter was forced to 
accept it, and instead of the Liaotung peninsula she de- 
manded and obtained an indemnity. 

Simultaneously, I entered into negotiations with China 
and offered her our services for the conclusion of the large 
loan which she needed in order to pay the Japanese indem- 
nity. As China's credit was not sufficient to enable her to 
contract the loan, I agreed to pledge Russia's resources as 
security for the Chinese loan. Furthermore, I took prac- 
tically complete charge of negotiating and arranging for 
the transaction on the French money market. The banking 
firms which took part in floating the loan included Banque 
de Paris, Banque des Pays Bas, Credit Lyonnais, and the 
Hotenger house. The representatives of these banks se- 
cured my promise to help them in their financial activities 
in China in return for the service they had done me in 
connection with the loan to China. 

As a result I founded the Russo-Chinese Bank, in which 
the French financiers were the chief shareholders. At first, 
the Chinese government and also our Treasury invested 
heavily in the institution, but lately our interest in it had 
been practically negligible. After the wretched Russo- 
Japanese War we lost our prestige in China and the bank 
began to decline. Recently it was merged with the North- 
ern Bank, the combination being known as the Russo- 
Asiatic Bank. 

Li Hung Chang Was sent to Russia as China's Ambassa- 
dor Extraordinary. He had been Governor-General of 
thc_province of Chi Li and at the time of his appointment 
occupied the post of First Chancellor, the most exalted 
office in the Empire. It seemed fantastic that the first dig- 
nitary of China should be sent as an emissary to a foreign 
sovereign and the unprecedented event caused a sensation. 
The distinguished envoy arrived in St. Petersburg on April 



86 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

J 8 (30)* 1896, three weeks before the coronation solemni- 
ties. By sending such a high dignitary to witness this cere- 
mony the Chinese wished to express their gratitude to our 
youthful Emperor for all his benefactions to the Chinese 
Empire. 

In the meantime the great Trans-Siberian Railway, which 
was under construction, had reached (Transbaikalia- and the 
question arose as to the further direction which the railroad 
} should follow. I conceived the idea of building the road 
; straight across Chinese territory, principally Mongolia and 
\ \nprthern Manchuria, on toward Vladivostok. This direc- 
tion, I calculated, would considerably shorten the line and 
facilitate its construction. Considering the enormous mile- 
age of the Trans-Siberian, it was natural to seek to shorten 
the route. Technically the~Amur section presented great 
difficulties. Besides, the road would run along the Amur 
River and would thus compete with the Amur steamship 
companies. The Manchurian route would save 514 versts. 
In comparison to the Amur region this section also pos- 
sessed the advantage of a more productive soil and a more 
favourable climate. The problem was how to get China's 
permission for this plan, by peaceful means based on mutual 
commercial interests. The idea appealed to me strongly 
and I found occasion to draw His Majesty's attention to it. 
The court physician, Badmayey, a Buriat by birth, who 
wielded a considerable influence over the Emperor, on the 
contrary, stood for the Kyakhta-Peking direction. I could 
not sympathize with his project, first, because I considered 
Vladivostok as the most desirable terminus for the Trans- 
Siberian, and, second, because I believed that a railroad to 
Peking would arouse the whole of Europe against us. It 
must be borne in mind that the great originator of the 
Trans-Siberian had no political or military designs in con- 
nection with the road. It was an enterprise of a purely 
economic nature. Alexander III wished to establish com- 



DEALING WITH LI HUNG CHANG 87 

munication by the shortest possible route between the dis- 
tant Maritime Province and Central Russia. Strategically, 
both Alexander III and his successor attributed a strictly 
defensive importance to the road. Under no circumstance 
was the Trans-Siberian to serve as a means for territorial 
expansion. 

When Li Hung Chang on his journey to Russia reached 
the Suez Canal, he was met by Prince Ukhtomski, at that 
time one of the Emperor's intimates. This was done at 
my instance. It had come to my knowledge that England, 
Germany and Austria were eager to decoy Li Hung Chang 
and that they wanted him to go to St. Petersburg through 
western Europe. I, on the contrary, desired to prevent him 
from visiting any other European country before his arrival 
in Russia, for it was clear to me that while in Europe Li 
Hung Chang was bound to become the object of various 
intrigues on the part of the European statesmen. 

Prince Ukhtomski met the Chinese dignitary and ap- 
parently succeeded in establishing cordial relations with 
him. In spite of the fact that Li Hung Chang was showered 
with invitations to various European ports, he boarded the 
Rossiya, a steamer of the Russian Steamship and Com- 
merce Corporation, specially prepared for us for the pur- 
pose, and proceeded straight to Odessa, accompanied by 
his retinue and Prince Ukhtomski. In that city he was 
given an honorary guard consisting of a detachment of our 
troops. At my instance, he was allowed to go directly to 
St. Petersburg, although Prince Lobanov-Rostovsky was of 
the opinion that Li Hung Chang should be kept waiting 
for the coronation at Odessa. Inasmuch as our Minister 
of Foreign Affairs was entirely ignorant of our Far-Eastern 
policy, I was empowered by His Majesty to conduct the 
negotiations with our Chinese guest. 

I was told that in conducting negotiations with Chinese 
officials it was necessary, above all, not to show any haste, 



88 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

for they consider that very bad taste, and business must be 
transacted slowly and ceremonially. Li Hung Chang was 
the first to pay me a visit in my capacity of Minister of 
Finances. When he entered my reception room, I came out 
to meet him in my official uniform. We greeted each other 
and bowed. Then I led the way to a second reception room 
and ordered tea served. Tea was served with great and 
elaborate pomp. My guest and myself sat, while all the 
members of his retinue as well as my attendants remained 
standing. When we had taken our tea, I inquired of Li 
Hung Chang whether he did not want to smoke. He 
emitted a sound not unlike the neighing of a horse. Imme- 
diately two Chinamen came running from the adjacent 
room, one carrying a narghile and the other tobacco. Then 
began the ceremony of smoking. Li Hung Chang sat 
quietly inhaling and exhaling the smoke, while his attend- 
ants with great awe lighted the narghile, held the pipe, 
took it out from his mouth and put it back. It was apparent 
that Li Hung Chang wanted to impress me with all these 
solemn ceremonies. On my part, I made believe that I did 
not pay the slightest attention to all these proceedings. 

Of course, during the first visit no attempt was made to 
talk business. Li Hung Chang kept on inquiring about the 
health of His Imperial Majesty, Her Imperial Majesty, and 
each of their children, while I evinced a profound interest 
in the state of health of the Chinese Emperor, his mother 
and all their nearest relatives. Our next meeting was of a 
different nature. Seeing that the elaborated ceremonies 
made no impression upon me, he gave them up and became 
less formal in his intercourse with me. Afterwards, during 
the coronation days in Moscow, we met without the slight- 
est display of pomp, and he was quite outspoken and busi- 
ness-like. I hold a very high opinion of him. During the 
active period of my life I had occasion to come in contact 
with a great many statesmen whose names will forever 



J 



DEALING WITH LI HUNG CHANG 89 

remain in history. His intelligence and common sense give 
Li Hung Chang a prominent place among those men. In 
recent Chinese history his importance is very great. For 
many years he was practically the ruler of that vast empire. 

In my conferences with Li Hung Chang I dwelt on the 
services which we had recently done to his country. I 
assured him that, having proclaimed the principle of 
China's territorial integrity, we intended to adhere to it in 
the future ; but, to be able to uphold this principle, I argued, 
we must be in a position, in case of emergency, to render 
China armed assistance. Such aid we would not be able 
to render her until both European Russia and Vladivostok 
were connected with China by rail, our armed forces being 
concentrated in European Russia. I called to his attention 
the fact that although during China's war with Japan we 
did dispatch some detachments from Vladivostok, they 
moved so slowly, because of the absence of railroad com- 
munication, that when they reached Kirin the war was over. 
Thus I argued that to uphold the territorial integrity of 
the Chinese Empire, it was necessary for us to have a rail- 
road running along the shortest possible route to Vladi- 
vostok, across the northern part of Mongolia and Man- 
churia. I also pointed out to Li Hung Chang that the 
projected railway would raise the productivity of our pos- 
sessions and the Chinese territories it would cross. Finally, "~1 
I declared, Japan was likely to assume a favourable atti- \ 
tude toward the road, for it would link her with Western 
Europe, whose civilization she had lately adopted. 

Naturally enough, Li Hung Chang raised objections. 
Nevertheless, I gathered from my talks with him that he 
would agree to my proposal if he were certain that our 
Emperor wished it. Therefore, I asked His Majesty to 
receive Li Hung Chang, which the Emperor did. It was 
practically a private audience and it passed unnoticed by 
the press. As a result of my negotiations with the Chinese 



9.o THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

statesman, we agreed on the following three provisions of 
a secret pact to be concluded between Russia and China : 

( 1 ) The Chinese Empire grants us permission to build a railroad 
within its territory along a straight line between/Chita/and Yladivos- 

"toj^but the road must be in the hands of a priVatecorporation. Li 
Hung Chang absolutely refused to accept my proposal that the road 
should be either constructed or owned by the Treasury. For that 
reason we were forced to form a private corporation, the so-called 
Eastern Chinese Railroad Corporation. This body is, of course, 
completely in the hands of the Government, but since nominally it 
is a private corporation, it is within the jurisdiction of the Ministry 
of Finances. 

(2) China agrees to cede us a strip of land sufficient for the 
construction and operation of the railway. Within that territory 

/ the corporation is permitted to have it own police and to exercise 
t full and untrammelled authority. China takes upon herself no re- 
sponsibilities with regard to the construction or operation of the road. 

(3) The two countries obligate themselves to defend each other 
in case Japan attacks the territory of China or our Far-Eastern mari- 
time possessions. 

I reported the results of my negotiations to His Majesty 
and he instructed me to take up the matter with the Foreign 
Minister. I explained to Prince Lobanov-Rostovski that 
I had come to an oral agreement with Li Hung Chang re- 
garding the provisions of a secret Russo-Chinese pact, and 
that the only thing left now was to embody the agreement 
in a formal written instrument. After listening to my 
statement of the terms of the agreement, the prince took a 
pen and wrote the text of the treaty. The document was 
drafted so skilfully that I approved it without the slightest 
reservation. The prince told me that the following day 
he would submit the document to His Majesty and return 
it to me if it was approved by the Emperor. 

When the text of the treaty came back to me, I discov- 

i ered, to my great surprise, a substantial alteration in the 

paragraph dealing with the Russo-Chinese union against 



DEALING WITH LI HUNG CHANG 91 

Japan. The words par le Japan (by Japan) were miss- 
ing from the text. In its altered version the pact provided 
for the mutual defence of the two countries in the event of 
an attack upon either of therELJiQt by Japan alone, but by 
any other Power. I was actually frightened. The altera- 
tion was of momentous importance. A defensive alliance 
against all the other Powers was quite different from such 
an alliance against Japan. Several European Powers, in- 
cluding France, our ally, and England, have interests in 
China, and to obligate ourselves to defend China from all 
those countries meant to arouse them all against us and to 
invite no end of trouble. 

I immediately went to see the Emperor and laid the 
matter before him. He instructed me to ask Prince 
Lobanov-Rostovski to make the necessary correction in the 
text of the agreement. The situation was very delicate. 
I^was_much younger than the Foreign Minister and much 
below him in official rank. For me to correct what he had 

-- - --* 

done was to affront him and arouse him against me. I made 
known my apprehensions to His Majesty and asked him 
personally to take up the matter with the prince. He 
agreed. Soon afterwards we all went to Moscow to attend 
the solemnities of the coronation. 

In Moscow I devoted much time and attention to Li 
Hung Chang, for I considered it a matter of primary im- 
portance to the State to bring our negotiations to a success- 
ful consummation. The Russo-Chinese alliance meant two 
things: first, a great railroad extending as far as Vladi- 
vostok on a straight line without curving northward along 
the Amur River; and, second, firmly established peaceful 
relations with our neighbour, the Chinese Colossus. 

The Emperor assured me that he had spoken to the 
Foreign Minister and that the latter had promised to restore 
the original version of the treaty. His Majesty spoke so 
definitely that no doubts were left in my mind on the sub- 



92 

ject. After this I met Prince Lobanov-Rostovski several 
times, but neither of us referred to the matter. 

In the meantime I continued my negotiations with Li 
Hung Chang to the end of inducing the Chinese Govern- 
ment to grant the concession for the construction of the 
Eastern Chinese section of the Trans-Siberian to the Russo- 
Chinese Bank, which was already functioning. At the same 
time I prepared an agreement with this Bank, whereby it 
ceded the concession to the Eastern Chinese Railroad Cor- 
poration soon to be formed by the Russian Government. 

Finally, we set the day for the signing of the secret 
agreement, the signatories on the Russian side being Prince 
Lobanov-Rostovski and myself, and on the Chinese side 
Li Hung Chang, who had received instructions directly 
from Peking. It was agreed that we would meet in the 
office of the Foreign Ministry and there sign the document 
with all the formalities prescribed by law and etiquette. 
On the appointed day the Russian plenipotentiaries with 
the officials attached to them and Li Hung Chang with his 
retinue gathered in the office of the Ministry and were 
seated around a table. Prince Lobanov-Rostovski opened 
the session and declared that both sides were familiar with 
the text of the agreement, that the instrument had now 
been carefully copied by the secretaries and that it could be 
signed without reading. Nevertheless, he said, he was per- 
fectly willing to let the Chinese re-read the document, if 
they so wished. Accordingly a copy of the agreement 
the document was to be signed in duplicate was handed to 
Li Hung Chang's assistants. I took the other one and 
began to scan it, suspecting no evil. Suddenly, to my hor- 
ror, I noticed that the paragraph relating to our defensive 
alliance with China had not been changed, notwithstanding 

^ His Majesty's assurance, and that, unlike my version, it 
provided for an obligation on our part to defend China 

\ from an attack by any Power. 



DEALING WITH LI HUNG CHANG 93 

I approached Prince Lobanov-Rostovski, called him 
aside and whispered in his ear that the provision regarding 
the defensive alliance had not been changed in accordance 
with His Majesty's will. "My God!" he exclaimed, strik- 
ing his forehead, "I clear forgot to tell my secretary to 
insert that paragraph in its original wording." Neverthe- 
lessjhe was not in the least taken aback. He looked at his 
watch. It was a quarter past twelve. He clapped several 
times to call the servants and said, turning to the gathering: 
"It is past noon. Let's take luncheon. We will sign the 
agreement afterwards." 

We all went to have luncheon, except the two secretaries, 
who, while we were lunching, copied the document and 
made the necessary corrections. These new copies were 
quietly substituted for the ones which had been circulated 
before luncheon and were duly signed by Li Hung Chang, 
on one side, and by Prince Lobanov-Rostovski and myself, 
on the other. 

The agreement was an act of the highest importance. 
Had we faithfully observed it, we would have been spared 
the disgrace of the Japanese war and we would have se- 
cured a firm foothold in the Far East. Anticipating upon 
the course of events, I may say here that we ourselves broke 
the agreement and brought about the situation which we 
are now facing in the Far East. It was an act in which 
treachery and giddy-headedness were curiously mingled. 

The agreement was ratified without further delay by 
both the Chinese and our Emperor. This agreement was 
to serve as a basis for our relations with China and for 
our status in the Far East generally. 

For some time after the signing of the agreement Li 
Hung Chang remained in Moscow. Once, I remember, 
while I was visiting him, the Emir of Bokhara was an- 
nounced. The Chinaman immediately assumed his most 
important air, and seated himself majestically in an arm- 



94 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

chair. When the Emir entered the reception room where 
Li Hung Chang sat, the latter rose from his seat, tdok 
several steps toward him and greeted him. As I knew 
both men very well, I did not withdraw. The Emir was 
visibly shocked by Li Hung Chang's important air and he 
gave him, first of all, to understand that he, the Emir, was 
a royal personage and that he paid Li Hung Chang a visit 
merely out of respect for the latter's sovereign, the Chinese 
Emperor. He kept on inquiring about the health of the 
Emperor and of the Emperor's mother and evinced no 
interest in the person of his host, which according to Chinese 
notions is very insulting. 

On his part, Li Hung Chang kept questioning the Emir 
as to what was his faith. He explained that the Chinese 
adhered to the religious teachings of Confucius, and he 
wondered, he said repeatedly, what was the religion of the 
Emir and his subjects. The Emir declared that he was a 
Moslem and went so far as to present the principles of the 
religion founded by Mohammed. When the visit was over, 
Li Hung Chang accompanied his guest to the very carriage 
in which the Emir had come. When the carriage was 
already in motion, Li Hung Chang shouted to the inter- 
preter who was with the Emir: "Please tell the Emir that 
I forgot to say to him that the Mohammed he spoke about 
had been in China. There he was found out to be a con- 
vict and they chased him out of the country. Then he must 
have gone to the Emir's people and founded his religion 
among them." This sally was so unexpected that the Emir 
was taken aback and retorted nothing. Having thus re- 
taliated for the offence the Emir had done him, Li Hung 
Chang returned to his reception room in high spirits. 

Not the slightest information penetrated into the press 
regarding our secret agreement with China. The only thing 
Europe learned was the bare fact that China had agreed 
to grant the Russo-Chinese Bank a concession for the con- 



DEALING WITH LI HUNG CHANG 95 

struction of the Eastern Chinese Railway, a continuation 
of the Trans-Siberian. The concession was drawn up under 
my instructions by the Assistant Minister of Finances, Piotr 
Mikhailovich Romanov, in consultation with the Chinese 
Minister in St. Petersburg, who was also China's envoy to 
Berlin. Winter and spring he usually spent in St. Peters- 
burg, while the rest of the year he stayed in Berlin. Since 
it was then summer-time, Romanov went to Berlin and it 
was there that the terms of the concessions were drafted. 
The project was subsequently ratified by the two contract- 
ing Governments. At the time it was rumoured in Europe, 
I remember, that Li Hung Chang had been bribed by the 
Russian Government. I must say that there is not a particle 
of truth in this rumour. 

The terms of the railroad concession granted by China 
were very favourable for Russia. The agreement provided 
for China's right to redeem the road at the expiration of, 
36 years, but the terms of the redemption were so burden- 
some that it was highly improbable that the Chinese Gov- 
ernment would ever attempt to effect the redemption. It-J 
was calculated that should the Chinese Government wish 
to redeem the road at the beginning of the 37th year, it 
would have to pay the corporation, according to the terms 
of the concession, a sum not less than 700 million rubles. 

In his informal talks with me Li Hung Chang reiterated 
that, as Russia's friend, he advised us not to go south of I 
the line along which the Trans-Siberian Railroad was to j 
run. Any movement southward on our part, he assured ^ 
me, might result in vast and unexpected perturbations which 
would be disastrous both for Russia and China. In the 
interior of the country, he said, the ignorant masses regard 
every white as an enemy. Li Hung Chang's efforts to per- 
suade me that it was necessary for Russia to refrain from 
any designs of conquest were indeed unnecessary. As the 
devoted servant of the Emperor to whom his son had justly 



96 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

(albeit inadvertently) applied the epithet "Peace-Maker," 
I have always been a most sincere advocate of the idea of 
peace. I believe that the teachings of Christianity will not 
become effective until mankind learns to execute Christ's 
chief commandment, namely, that no human being has the 
moral right to kill other human beings. I mention this to 
show what an eminently sane statesman was Li Hung 
Chang, this representative of what to the Europeans ap- 
peared to be a semi-civilized people. 

In those days the young Emperor carried in himself the 
seeds of the best that the human mind and heart possess, 
and I did not judge it necessary to report to him Li Hung 
Chang's advice. I was certain that, in concluding the secret 
agreement with China, the Emperor pursued exclusively 
peaceful designs. 

In passing, I may note the origin of Nicholas's appeal to 
the Powers for partial disarmament. In the middle of 1898 
Kuropatkin informed Foreign Minister Muraviov that, 
according to his information, Austria was about to increase 
and re-arm her artillery. This necessitated a re-arming of 
our own artillery, which would have been exceedingly bur- 
densome, for we were at that time in the process of re- 
arming our entire infantry. For this reason the War 
Minister suggested that we should open negotiations for 
the purpose of inducing Austria to give up her plan, with 
the understanding that we, too, would obligate ourselves 
to refrain from either increasing or perfecting our artillery. 
Muraviov asked me to give him my opinion on the matter. 
The step, I declared, could bring us nothing but harm. It 
would achieve no practical results and it would merely 
reveal our financial weakness to the whole world. In speak- 
ing to the Minister I expatiated on the incalculable harm 
which the growing militarism was doing to the peoples of 
the world and on the boon which would be conferred on 
humanity by limiting the armaments. These rather trite 



DEALING WITH LI HUNG CHANG 97 

ideas were new to the unsophisticated Minister and ap- 
parently produced on him a profound impression. 

Several days later the Foreign Minister called a confer- 
ence to consider the question of appealing to the Powers 
for partial disarmament and a limitation of military ex- 
penditures. Muraviov informed us that His Majesty fa- 
voured the plan, and read a draft of the appeal. Naturally 
enough, Kuropatkin opposed the project. On the contrary, 
I approved the plan, as I would any scheme tending to settle 
international conflicts by peaceful means. At any rate, I 
pointed out, it was much less impracticable and odd than 
the plan for an agreement with Austria, previously sug- 
gested by the War Minister. 

The appeal was issued August 12 (24), 1898, and the 
following year a peace conference took place at the Hague. 
I had an occasion to discuss the matter with His Majesty. 
I congraulated him upon having taken the initiative in the 
great and noble task of bringing about universal peace, but 
I pointed out that the conference was not likely to have 
any practical results. The sacred truths of the Christian 
faith were enounced by the Son of God some two thousand 
years ago, and yet most of the people are still indifferent to 
these precepts. Likewise many centuries will pass before 
the idea of peaceful settlement of international conflict will 
be carried into practice. Five years later we ourselves 
showed that our talk about disarmament and peace was but 
empty verbiage. 

During the coronation solemnities in Moscow we signed 
another agreement bearing on our Far-Eastern policy. I , \ 
have in mind the treaty with Japan regarding Korea, which 
sanctioned Russia's dominating position in Korea and deter- 
mined Japan's sphere of influence in that country. This 
treaty granted us the right to keep military instructors and 
several hundred of our soldiers in Korea. The agreement 
also gave us a preponderating influence upon Korea's state 



98 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

finances. We had the right to appoint the financial coun- 
sellor to the Korean Emperor^e^ jpractically the Korean 
Minister of Finance.s. As for Japan, the treaty guaranteed 
her certain commercial and industrial rights and privileges 
in Korea. Thus the treaty demarcated the spheres of influ- 
ence of the two states in independent Korea (the Sino- 
Japanese treaty provided for the independence of that 
country). 

After the Sino-Japanese war and thejmbsequent increase 
of our Pacific fleet, the Naval Department began -to look 
for a harbour to be used by our warships, for, in view of 
strained relations with Japan, it was no longer safe to rely 
upon the Japanese ports. In 1895, the Chinese Govern- 
ment agreed to open to us the port of fCiao-Chow, but as a 
matter of fact we did not take advantage of this privilege, 
for we found the harbour inconvenient. 

The question of a harbour for our warships remained 
open till late in 1897, when Germany landed an armed 
force at Kiao-Chow, on the southeastern coast of the Kwan- 
tung peninsula. The news came to me as a complete sur- 
prise. The Foreign Minister, however, was not altogether 
surprised by Germany's step. Several days afterward the 
German diplomats issued a statement to the effect that Ger- 
many's vessels had entered the port in order to punish the 
Chinese for the assassination of a German missionary, 
which had taken place some time previously. It appeared 
odd, however, that this punishment should have necessi- 
tated the occupation of the entire port by a considerable 
armed force landed by a strong naval squadron. 

/On receiving the news of the landing, the Chinese Gov- 
ernment asked for a detachment of Russian warships to be 
sent to Kiao-Chow for the purpose of watching the actions 
of the Germans. At first our Charge d'affaires at Peking 
was notified from St. Petersburg that the warships had 
been dispatched to the Chinese port in question, but the 



DEALING WITH LI HUNG CHANG 99 

following day that order was cancelled. In informing Li 
Hung Chang about these developments, our Charge 
d'affaires stated that negotiations were, no doubt, going on 
between St. Petersburg and Berlin, which would result in 
the speedy settlement of the misunderstanding at Kiao- 
Chow. 

Thef' Foreign Minister, Count Muraviov, conceived the 
idea of taking advantage of this situation for the purpose of 
securing a base for our navy. It would be easy, he believed, 
to justify our occupation of some point on Chinese territory 
by our need of a strongJjase for our navy, should events 
develop in a direction unfavourable to China. 

Early in November, several Ministers, including myself, 
received a memorandum drawn up_by Count Muraviov. It 
pointed out that the occupation of Kiao-Chow by the Ger- 
mans offered a favourable occasion for us to seize one of 
the Chinese ports, notably Port Arthur or the adjacent 
Ta-lieng-wan. After a while we received an invitation to 
a conference called for the specific purpose of taking up 
Count Muraviov's suggestion. The conference was pre- 
sided over by His Majesty himself and was attended, besides 
the author of the memorandum and myself, by the War 
Minister, Vannovski, and the Director of the Naval Min- 
istry, Tyrtov. 

Count Muraviov declared that Russia needed a Pacific 
port in the Far East and that the moment was opportune 
for the occupation, or, more correctly, the seizure of Port 
Arthur or Ta-lieng-wan. He pointed out that these ports 
had an enormous strategical importance. I indignantly i 
protested against this measure. I reminded my hearers 
that we had declared the principle of China's territorial 
integrity and that on the strength of that principle we 
forced Japan to withdraw from the Liaotung peninsula, 
which comprises Port Arthur and Ta-lieng-wan. I further [/ 
pointed to the fact that we had concluded a secret defen- 



ioo THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

sive alliance with China, thus obligating ourselves to defend 
her from Japan's encroachments upon her territory. Under 
these circumstances, I declared, the seizure of a Chinese 
port would be the height of treachery and faithlessness. 
Aside from these considerations of an ethical order, I said,- 
the proposed measure would be extremely dangerous even 
from the standpoint of our self-interest. I called the atten- 
tion of the conference to the fact that we were engaged in 
building a railroad on Chinese territory and that our step 
would arouse the country against us, thus eadangexing^the 
railroad construction. Besides, the occupied ports, I said, 
would have to be connected by rail with the trunk line, 
which circumstance would drag us into complications likely 
to have disastrous results. 

Minister of War Vannovski staunchly supported Count 
Muraviov. The Navy Minister declared that a port on 
the Korean coast, nearer to the open ocean, would be 
preferable to either Port Arthur or Ta-lieng-wan. My 
arguments did not have any effect upon either Vannovski or 
Muraviov, but the Emperor was visibly impressed by my 
heated denunciation of the project and he refused to sanc- 
tion the plan of occupation. 

Several days afterwards I had an audience with His 
Majesty. "You know, Sergey Yulievich," said the Em- 
peror to me, evidently somewhat put out, "I have decided 
to occupy Port Arthur and Ta-lieng-wan. Our ships with 
troops are already on their way there. Here is why I have 
taken this step. After the conference the Foreign Minister 
reported to me that, according to his information, British 
warships were cruising off the ports in question and that if 
we did not occupy them, the English would do so." Mura- 
viov's information was, of course, false, as I later found 
out from the British Ambassador. 

The news greatly upset me. On leaving the Emperor's 
study, I met Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich. He 



DEALING WITH LI HUNG CHANG ior 

was au courant of the developments in the Far East. 
"Your Highness," I said, "remember this day: this fatal 
step will have disastrous results." 

Directly from His Majesty I went to see Tschirsky, 
counsellor of the German Embassy in St. Petersburg, and 
asked him to telegraph to the German Emperor that in the 
interests of both my country and Germany I counselled and 
urged him to withdraw from Kiao-Chow, after having 
punished those guilty of the assassination of the mission- 
aries. The Kaiser's answer was substantially as follows: 
"I see from Witte's words that some very important details 
relating to the matter are unknown to him. Therefore, we 
cannot follow his advice." Later I found out what were 
the "important details" the German Emperor had referred 
to. During his visit to Peterhof in the summer of 1897, 
he had practically forced from Emperor Nicholas a tacit 
agreement to Germany's occupation of Kiao-Chow. 

In the early part of December, 1897, a squadron of our _^ 
warships occupied Port Arthur and Ta-lieng-wan. This, 
as~T Iiave said, took place in consequence of the Foreign 
Minister's report to the effect that if we failed to occupy \ 
these seaports, they would be occupied by the English. 

Foreseeing all the disastrous consequences of the decision 
which His Majesty had taken, I did not give in and con- 
tinued to advocate withdrawal from Port Arthur. In this 
connection I had several sharp explanations with the Min- 
ister of Foreign Affairs. As a result, my relations with 
Count Muraviov became strained and remained so until his 
very death. All my efforts were in vain. It was natural 
for the young Emperor to follow the advice of his Foreign 
Minister and Minister of War, which was in agreement 
with his own thirst for military glory and conquests. 

Count Muraviov instructed our Charge d'affaires in 
Peking to inform the Chinese Government that we had no 
intention of seizing Chinese territory, that we had occupied 



102 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Port Arthur in order to protect China from the Germans 
and that we would leave as soon as the Germans had left. 
At first the Chinese were reassured and offered their serv- 
ices to supply coal for our warships. 

In the meantime parties of engineers began to arrive in 
Manchuria. By March, 1898, the preliminary investiga- 
tion was so far advanced that it was possible to draft con- 
struction plans. The Eastern Chinese Railroad was de- 
signed exclusively for cultural and peaceful purposes, but 
jingoist adventurers turned it into a means of political 
aggression involving the violation of treaties, the breaking 
of freely given promises and the disregard of the elementary 
interests of other nationalities. 

On the ist of January, 1898, General Alexey Nikolaie- 
vich Kuropatkin was appointed Director of the Ministry 
of War, supplanting Vannovski. I hoped that the new War 
Minister would adopt my policy and that we would with- 
draw from Port Arthur. My hope was vain. At a confer- 
ence under the presidency of Grank Duke Alexey Alex- 
androvich, called in order to determine the demand made 
upon China, the General showed himself entirely opposed 
to my views. The demands upon China, he said, were to 
include not alone the cession of Port Arthur and Ta-lieng- 
wan, but also that part of the Liao-tung peninsula which 
is known as the Kwantung Province. This he considered 
to be a strategic necessity. The conference drafted a set 
of demands in this aggressive spirit. It provided for the 
lease of the Kwantung Peninsula to Russia for 36 years, 
without any compensation to China, and also the construc- 
tion of a branch linking them with the Trans-Siberian. 

Shortly afterwards I asked His Majesty to set me free 
from my ministerial office, in view of my disagreement with 
the Far-Eastern policy of the Government. His Majesty 
refused to comply with my request. He pointed out to me 
that he had implicit confidence in my abilities as Minister 



DEALING WITH LI HUNG CHANG 103 

of Finances and that personally he valued my services very 
highly. As for the occupation of the Chinese ports, he 
said, the matter had already been settled beyond recall and 
that the future would show whether it was a right or wrong 
step. In the meantime the Emperor asked my assistance in 
carrying out his newly inaugurated policy in the Far East. 

The Chinese Government was reluctant to comply with 
our demands. The Empress Regent, together with the 
young Chinese Emperor, had gone to her summer residence, 
in the vicinity of Peking. Under the influence of English 
and Japanese diplomats, she obstinately refused to make 
any concessions. Seeing that under the circumstances, 
should we fail to reach an agreement with China, blood- 
shed was likely to take place, I wired to the agent of my 
ministry in Peking to see Li Hung Chang and Chang Ing 
Huan, another high official, and to advise them in my name 
to come to terms with us. I instructed the agent to offer 
these two statesmen valuable presents amounting to 500,000 
and 250,000 rubles respectively. This was the first time 
that I resorted to bribing in my negotiations with China- 
men. 

Largely under the influence of the fact that a number 
of our warships, cleared for action, lay off Port Arthur, 
the two statesmen went to the Empress intent on persuading 
her to yield. Finally, the Empress consented to sign the 
agreement. This came as a . pleasant surprise to His 
Majesty. The agreement was signed on March 15, 1898, 
by Li Hung Chang and Chang Ing. Huan, on the one 
hand, and our Charge d'affaires, on the other. The act was 
a violation of our traditional relations with the Chinese 
Empire. In speaking to the German Ambassador, Prince 
Radolin, about our occupation of Port Arthur-I^emember, 
I characterized our policy aQ_JVJ3JlfTi play Yphirh will pnH 
disastrously^' It was a fatal step, which eventually brought 
about the unhappy Japanese War and the subsequent revo- 



104 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

lution. On the other hand, the Chinese Empire is tottering 
and, out of the civil war now raging, a republic is bound to 
arise. The fall of the Chinese Empire will produce an 
upheaval in the Far East and will be felt for many years to 
come. 



CHAPTER V 

ORIGINS AND COURSE OF THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR 

IT is certain that by the seizure of Kiao-Chow Emperor 
William furnished the initial impetus to our policy. Per- 
haps he was not clearly aware to what consequences our step 
would lead, but the German diplomats and the German 
Kaiser were clearly making every effort in those days to 
drag us into Far-Eastern adventures. They sought to 
divert our forces to the Far East, so as to insure the safety 
of their Eastern frontier. During the war the Kaiser was, 
in a sense, the defender of our frontier in the West. We 
paid for this service by a commercial treaty highly unfavour- 
able to us. 

Speaking of our Far-Eastern policies, I recall that in 
1898 we built a large ice-breaker, with a view to carrying 
on navigation in the Baltic during the Winter, but chiefly 
for the purpose of discovering an Arctic sea route to the 
Far East. The ice-breaker was built with the close partici- 
pation of Admiral Makarov, who during the Japanese War 
met his death heroically at Port Arthur. The admiral 
undertook an Arctic expedition on the ice-breaker, but did 
not go farther than Nova Zembla. 

The problem of an Arctic sea route to the Far East 
greatly interested our celebrated scientist Mendeleyev. I 
recall a conference on the subject, which I had with Admiral 
Makarov and Mendeleyev in my study. The great chemist 
advocated a daring plan. He spurned the idea of reaching 
Sakhalin by sailing parallel to the Arctic coast. The safest 
and shortest route, he asserted, lay across the North Pole. 



io6 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Admiral Makarov, on the contrary, considered this to be a 
very risky project and thought it more prudent to skirt our 
Northern coast. Mendeleyev was so certain of the feasi- 
bility of his plan that he expressed his willingness to accom- 
pany the expedition on board the ice-breaker, should his 
route be adopted. He refused, however, to join the expedi- 
tion if it were to follow the admiral's route. The clash 
between the two men actually assumed a personal character, 
and they never met again. In the end neither plan was 
carried out. Admiral Makarov was soon appointed com- 
mander of the port of Kronstadt and when the Russo- 
Japanese war broke out he was made Commander-in-Chief 
of the Far-Eastern Navy. 

Our occupation of the Kwantung Peninsula alarmed the 
Powers which had vested interests in China. England 
immediately seized Wei-Hai-Wei, and Japan renewed its 
encroachments upon Korea. France seized some territory 
in the South of China, and on February 17, 1899, the 
Italian Ambassador, Martino, made a demand upon China 
for the cession of the harbour of Sang-Ming to Italy and 
for the recognition of the province of Che-tzian as the 
sphere of Italian influence. In this case the Chinese Gov- 
ernment showed an unusual firmness, and Italy was obliged 
to give up its claim. In a word, Germany's act was a signal 
for the pillaging of Chinese territory by all the Powers. 
To pacify them we obligated ourselves to build a free com- 
mercial port in the vicinity of Port Arthur. This failed to 
satisfy the Japanese. Fearing a clash with that country, 
we were forced to yield ground to it in Korea. We with- 
drew our soldiers and military instructors from that coun- 
try and we recalled our counsellor to the Korean Emperor, 
who in a short time had acquired complete influence over 
the finances of the country. Our agreement with Japan, 
dated April 13, 1898, sanctioned the dominating position 
of that country in Korea. If we had faithfully adhered to 



THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR 107 

the spirit of this agreement, there is no doubt but that 
more or less permanent peaceful relations would have been 
established between Japan and Russia. We would have 
quietly kept the Kwantung Peninsula while Japan would 
have completely dominated Korea, and this situation could 
have lasted indefinitely, without giving occasion to a clash. 

The cession of the Kwantung Peninsula to Russia and 
the subsequent seizure of China's territory by European 
Powers profoundly aroused Chinese public opinion. Li 
Hung Chang, who signed the agreement of March 15, 
1898, had to give up his high post and accept a Governor- 
Generalship in Southern China. As for Chang Ing Huan, 
he was exiled during the Boxer Rebellion into the interior 
of the country, where he was throttled or strangled. It is 
also known that the Chinese Ambassador to St. Petersburg 
and Berlin, a respectable and conscientious official, was 
publicly executed on his return to Peking. 

The most violent form, however, assumed by popular 
discontent in Russia was the Boxer Rebellion, so-called. 
The year 1898 witnessed the beginning of disturbances. 
The following year the movement grew considerably 
stronger, and in 1900 it called forth repressive measures 
on the part of the European Governments. It originated 
in the South and spread North. Chinese bands attacked 
the Europeans, looted their property and, in some cases, 
endangered their very lives. The Chinese Government 
secretly assisted the rebels. At any rate, it is certain that 
the authorities had neither the desire nor the means to 
combat the rebellion. 

On the day when the news of the rebellion reached the 
capital, Minister of War Kuropatkin came to see me at my 
office in the Ministry of Finances. He was beaming with 
joy. I called his attention to the fact that the insurrection 
was the result of our seizure of the Kwantung Peninsula. 
"On my part," he replied, "I am very glad. This will give 



io8 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

us an excuse for seizing Manchuria." I was curious to 
know what my visitor intended to do with Manchuria, once 
it was occupied. "We will turn Manchuria," he informed 
me, "into a second Bokhara." 

In taking repressive measures against the Boxers, we 
went hand in hand with the other European Powers. We 
took upon ourselves the initiative of the march on Peking, 
after the failure of Admiral Seymour's attempt to free the 
Embassies in Peking, which were practically besieged. 
Here again I disagreed with Kuropatkin. I pleaded with 
His Majesty to refrain from active intervention in China 
and to let the other Powers quell the riots in Peking. Kuro- 
patkin, on the contrary, insisted that we should play the 
leading part in the punitive expedition against Peking. I 
argued that it was essential for us not to irritate the 
Chinese, so as to protect our position in Manchuria, in 
which we were vitally interested. 

My counsel went unheeded. With the assistance of the 
Japanese troops we took Peking, after the Empress Dow- 
ager and the young Emperor had fled from the capital. 
A number of private residences and, especially, the Imperial 
palace were pillaged. It was rumoured that Russian army 
officers took part in the looting, and I must say, to our 
shame, that our agent in Peking unofficially confirmed these 
rumours to me. One lieutenant general, who had received 
the Cross of St. George for the capture of Peking, returned 
to his post in the Amur region with ten trunksful of val- 
uables coming from the looted Peking palaces. Unfortu- 
nately, the General's example was followed by other army 
men. 

The pillaging of the Imperial palaces was accompanied 
by the seizux^of Chinese State documents of the highest 
importance. Among the papers taken there was, curiously 
enough, the original copy of the agreement signed in 1896 
by Prince Lobanov-Rostovski and myself, on one side, and 



THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR 109 

Li Hung Chang, on the other. It appears that the Empress 
Dowager attributed such a high importance to this docu- 
ment that she kept it in her bedroom in a special safe. 
When Peking was besieged, the Empress was forced to flee 
from the palace in such a great haste that she left the 
precious document behind. At my recommendation, this 
agreement, which we had so treacherously violated, was 
returned to the Chinese Government. 

After the capture of Peking we came to our senses and 
withdrew our troops from the capital, at the instance of 
the Foreign Minister and of myself. 

Unfortunately, the Boxer movement spread to Man- 
churia. The attitude of the authorities and the population 
of that province toward our activities there was at first, on 
the whole, satisfactory. But after we had occupied Port 
Arthur, the situation underwent a change. Especially in 
Southern Manchuria the population showed a great deal of 
hostility toward us. Both the population and the officials 
sought to interfere with the building of the railroad, and 
at times we had to deal with armed attacks. There were 
various reasons, some of them purely economical, for this 
hostility, but it is significant that since our occupation of 
Kwantung the local authorities had made no efforts to allay 
this hostility or to keep it in check. 

The Chinese administration was markedly passive when 
it came to punishing offenders against Russian life or prop- 
erty. Only upon receiving direct and repeated instructions 
from Peking would the local administration take the neces- 
sary punitive measures, and that reluctantly. The conniv- 
ance of the local authorities went so far that on one 
occasion there were regular Chinese soldiers with field guns 
and military insignia among the rebels who attacked a 
group of our railway employes. In some cases the officials 
themselves instigated attacks on us and acted as ring-leaders. 
Early in 1899, the Governor of Mukden issued a proclama- 



no THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

tion to the people of that province, which accused the 
Russians of oppressing the population in various ways and 
of illegally occupying land for the construction of the city 
and of the port of Ta-lieng-wan. The proclamation caused 
considerable unrest in that region. In seeking to hinder us, 
the Chinese resorted to their favourite method of setting 
us against the British, our rivals in the Far East. The 
central Chinese Government clearly favoured the English 
and was hostile toward us. 

At the first sign of trouble in Manchuria Kuropatkin 
made ready to dispatch our troops stationed in the Amur 
region to the scene of the disturbances. I made every effort 
to stay Kuropatkin's hand, but soon the riots in Manchuria 
assumed a threatening character, and I was forced to urge 
the General to shift our troops to Manchuria. In this case, 
too, Kuropatkin acted with his customary flightiness and 
characteristic lack of foresight. He brought into play an 
all too large contingent of troops, although it was obvious 
that the most insignificant military force was sufficient to 
restore order. He went as far as dispatching troops from 
European Russia. By the time a part of them reached 
Port Arthur the riots were quelled, so that they were imme- 
diately turned back. Both Northern and Southern Man- 
churia were occupied by our troops. 

The administration of our Manchurian railway was de- 
cidedly in a peaceful frame of mind. It advocated a policy 
of fair play toward China, and they were eager to make up 
for past transgressions against that country. Kuropatkin 
was entirely out of sympathy with that policy. Our army 
behaved in Manchuria as in a conquered country, thus pre- 
paring the ground for a catastrophe. The forces of the 
Boxers in Manchuria were practically insignificant. Gen- 
eral Subotich defeated the strongest Boxer band without 
any difficulty, for which exploit he was decorated with the 
Cross of St. George. This practically put an end to the 



THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR in 

disturbances. Yet the War Ministry persisted, under one 
pretext or another, in keeping our troops in Manchuria. 
For a year and a half this was the cause of differences be- 
tween the Ministry of Finances, the administration of the 
Eastern-Chinese Railroad, and the agents of the Foreign 
Ministry, on one side, and the War Ministry, on the other. 
His Majesty vacillated and rendered inconsistent decisions. 
On one hand, he did not definitely condemn the view held 
by the Ministers of Finances and Foreign Affairs. On the 
other hand, he seemed to countenance General Kuropatkin 
and his group. 

After the suppression of the Boxer rebellion, the military 
elements obtained a dominating influence upon our relations 
with China. They sought to utilize the trouble for the 
purpose of promoting their professional interests and they 
kept on hatching various plans of conquest. Excerpts from 
a memoir written in 1902 by one Hirshman, an engineer 
who built the Southern section of the Kharbin-Port Arthur 
line, will best illustrate the activities of our militarists in 
Manchuria. 

Speaking of the campaign of 1900, Hirshman notes the 
incredibly exaggerated character of the official accounts of 
military engagements and the extraordinary lavishness with 
which all manner of rewards were showered upon the Man- 
churian "heroes." "Furthermore," he writes, "it is an 
open secret that from the very beginning of the campaign 
it was the desire of the military party not only to punish 
the Boxers but also permanently to annex Manchuria." 
Describing the conduct of the military operations in Man- 
churia, he very aptly observes that we were pillaging a 
region in whose economic prosperity we were vitally inter- 
ested. Punitive expeditions were undertaken with no other 
end in view than to furnish an excuse for new promotions 
and new looting. He cites, as a striking example, the ex- 
pedition against a rebel band led by a Khing Tzang. It 



ii2 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

became known to General Tzerpitzky that this band had 
established its headquarters in the vicinity of the town of 
Kulo in Mongolia, and he decided to exterminate it. In 
view of the excellent relations which existed between the 
Russians, on one hand, and the Mongolian population and 
authorities, on the other, the expeditionary forces were pro- 
vided with reliable Chinese officials and safe-conducts. The 
goal of the expedition was the town of Kulo with its ancient 
monastery revered throughout Mongolia and renowned for 
its riches. Everything ran smoothly. The attitude of the 
population toward the troops was friendly and hospitable, 
and the expedition would have been a very peaceful affair 
indeed, if the General in command had not been possessed 
by a thirst for military laurels and also loot. 

"The story was related to me by General Tzerpitzky 
himself," writes Hirshman, "in the presence of several wit- 
nesses. When the expedition approached Kulo, the General 
simulated sickness and declared that he could not enter the 
town the same day. When night came and the Chinese 
officials attached to the expedition went to sleep, after 
having taken the necessary precautionary measures, the 
General suddenly recovered and entered the town in the 
dead of the night. Under the pretext of a rifle shot fired 
at the troops, it was most probably one of those shots 
which the town night guards are in a habit of firing as a 
sign of their watchfulness, the monastery was taken by 
force, a considerable number of monks and laymen were 
slaughtered and the sanctuary pillaged. The valiant Gen- 
eral's share of the booty included some two hundred ancient 
sacred statues of gilt bronze." 

The author of the memoir reaches the following conclu- 
sion: "It is possible, without the slightest apprehension, 
to let the Chinese administration itself, which is more expe- 
rienced in these matters, disperse the robber bands and 



THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR 113 

restore order. It is also certain that the withdrawal of our 
troops presents no danger." 

Interesting sidelights on the Far-Eastern policy of our 
central Government during the period of the suppression 
of the Boxer movement are contained in a series of letters, 
which I wrote to Minister of the Interior Sipyagin in 1900, 
while he sojourned abroad for the sake of his health. This 
is from a letter, dated St. Petersburg, August 10, 1900: 

The march on Peking came as a surprise to Count Lamsdorff. 
Kuropatkin kept on assuring us that Peking could not be taken 
now, that operations could not be begun before September and 
that only by that time a sufficient number of troops would be avail- 
able. It transpired, however, that while Kuropatkin thus kept on 
reassuring Lamsdorff, he removed Admiral Alexeyev, to whom the 
Foreign Minister all the while gave instructions, appointed Linevich 
in his stead and, without Count LamsdorfFs knowledge, ordered him 
to march on Peking . . . But that is not all. In spite of official and 
public assurances that our only intention is the restoration of order, 
Grodekov suddenly declares the right shore of the Amur River to be 
ours. The Emperor extends his thanks, and this is published to the 
world ! Then they seize the highly important harbour of New-Chang, 
hoist the Russian flag and establish a Russian administration there. 
The same thing is done in Kharbin. The result is distrust on the 
part of the Chinese, jealousy and malevolence in Europe and alarm 
in Japan. In addition, every day Kuropatkin summons foreign mili- 
tary agents and tells them that we are waging war, that we want 
to occupy the entire North, that we shall not tolerate Japan in 
Korea and so forth. Under these circumstances I took the liberty 
of writing again to His Majesty to the effect that Kuropatkin was 
leading him to a disaster ; that he, the Emperor, must not declare pub- 
licly through the Foreign Minister one thing and do another; that 
our only business in China is to restore order on the Eastern-Chinese 
Railroad, after which we must withdraw; that by waging war 
against China we are making eternal enemies out of the Chinese; 
. . . that should we penetrate further into Manchuria, some un- 
pleasant surprise would surely be sprung on us either on the West- 
ern or the Asiatic frontier; that the Far-Eastern campaign arouses 
no enthusiasm among the people ; that all this is very dangerous, for 
internal psychological epidemics may develop in the country. . . . 



ii 4 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

In conclusion, I implored His Majesty to instruct the War Ministry 
to carry out, faithfully and without ambitious plans, his original pro- 
gram and not to drag us into further international complications. 

As it was a very sharp letter, I showed it to Pobiedonostzev. He 
said that it was my duty to send it to the Emperor, which I did. 
Probably under the influence of my letter, the Emperor sum- 
moned Count Lamsdorff. The latter corroborated the views ex- 
pressed in my letter and complained against Kuropatkin's methods. 
He was especially bitter in denouncing the occupation of Peking and 
the way in which it was done. ... His Majesty was gracious to the 
Minister, but often interrupted him saying that, after all, the Asiatics 
deserved the lesson which they had been taught. ... As you see, 
the situation is discouraging. There is no definite policy, no firmness, 
no adherence to one's word, and Kuropatkin is in a state of chronic 
rage. ... I have done all I could to prevent a disaster. . . . The 
course of events does not depend upon me. . . . 

And here is an extract from a letter dated August 31, 
1900: 

Jesting apart, Count Lamsdorff and myself are more afraid of 
Kuropatkin than of the Chinese. . . . Aside from the unnecessarily 
large army contingents he is using, the huge expenditures, and the use- 
less measures relating to telegraphs and railroads, which he is taking, 
my indignation is roused by his communiques, reporting fantastic 
battles with no casualties or very insignificant ones on our side, 
and with hundreds of Chinese killed or wounded. . . . And to think 
that Kuropatkin set the whole of Russia agoing and mobilized upward 
of 200,000 men to deal with this opponent! I wish all this were 
nothing but folly and giddiness, but I fear that the General has 
something up his sleeve. Recently I have had several discussions 
with him, but to no purpose: he says one thing, and does another. 
Perhaps, the clue to his behavior is this. The other day he dined 
with us and, among other things, he said that the Commander-in- 
Chief alone was competent to determine the requisite number of 
troops. I was curious to know who was the Commander-in-Chief 
he had referred to. He replied to the effect that although many peo- 
ple insisted on the necessity of appointing a Commander, His Majesty 
and himself had decided at the very beginning of the campaign that 
the Emperor himself would act as Commander-in-Chief and he, Kuro- 
patkin, as his Chief of Staff. . . . Judge for yourself what it all 
means. 



THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR 115 

General Kuropatkin was self-seeking and glib-tongued 
and he possessed, no doubt, a measure of personal bravery. 
He was clever enough to take advantage of the fact that 
he had been appointed Minister by the young Emperor 
himself. He soon perceived that as war chief he was des- 
tined to become the right hand of the ruler of an essentially 
military Empire. In fact Kuropatkin at once became His 
Majesty's favourite. While the Ministers appointed under 
Emperor Alexander III were rarely invited to take luncheon 
with their Majesties, this high honour was frequently be- 
stowed upon Kuropatkin and also Foreign Minister Mura*- 
viov. The latter amused the Empress by telling poor jokes, 
while the former pleased His Majesty. It soon occurred to 
the General, however, that it was important for him to 
please Her Majesty as well. On one occasion, I remember, 
shortly after he was appointed Minister I called upon him, 
knowing that the following day he was to report to the 
Emperor. I wanted to ask him to speak to the Emperor 
about a certain matter. I found him in his study at a desk 
littered with books. Having stated my business, I rose to 
depart, but he asked me to stay and have a chat. I said 
I was not in a hurry, but did not wish to keep him from 
his work, whereupon he assured me that his report was 
ready. But after the report," he said, "I am invited to 
lunch with their Majesties. So, you see, I must prepare 
some interesting conversation for the Empress. All the 
books you see here are novels and stories by our best 
writers, especially Turgenev. The subject of my talk to- 
morrow will be woman, in general, and the fine types of 
Russian women, in particular." 

The next year the Emperor spent a part of the Spring 
at Yalta, Crimea, and some of the Ministers, including 
General Kuropatkin and myself, had come to stay there. 
There was a spell of bad weather, I remember. One morn- 
ing on his way from the Emperor's palace the General 



n6 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

stopped at my summer-house. "This morning," he de- 
clared, "I have succeeded in cheering up His Majesty. 
While I was reporting to him, the sky was overcast, and 
the Emperor was gloomy. Suddenly Her Majesty, in a 
gorgeous dressing-gown, appeared on one of the balconies. 
'Your Majesty,' I said, seeing that the Emperor did not 
notice her, 'look, there is the sun!' 'Where do you see the 
sun?' he exclaimed. 'Please turn around,' I said. He did, 
noticed the Empress, and smiled. His gloom was gone." 

Both as commander and military organizer Kuropatkin 
lacked creative talent and originality. He always worked 
with other people's ideas and suggestions. But it must be 
conceded that he possessed a great deal of assiduity and 
diligence. 

The beginning of the century witnessed the formation of 
an unofficial force, which gradually became a highly impor- 
tant factor in our Far-Eastern policy. A certain Bezo- 
brazov, a retired captain of cavalry, appeared on the stage. 
He advocated the necessity of regaining our influence in 
Korea by means of securing various concessions in that 
country, ostensibly private, but in reality backed and di- 
rected by the Government. Bezobrazov succeeded in win- 
ning over to his side Count Vorontzov-Dashkov and Grand 
Duke Alexander Mikhailovich. These two men introduced 
the captain to His Majesty. They were in favour of annex- 
ing Korea in the spider-like fashion advocated by their 
protege. The Prince was not intelligent enough to see the 
consequences of such a policy, while the Grand Duke was 
actuated by a weakness for all those schemes which prom- 
ised to bring him to the foreground and give food to his 
restlessness. 

Early in 1900 Bezobrazov conceived an idea of forming 
a semi-official Eastern-Asiatic industrial corporation, with 
the financial participation of the Treasury, for the purpose 
of exploiting the Korean forests. Seeing that the enter- 



THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR 117 

prise had all the earmarks of a politico-industrial adventure, 
I strenuously opposed it. This time I scored a victory. 
Although the statutes of the corporation were confirmed 
(in June, 1901), the corporation was not formed. 

The Korean problem was one of the storm-centres of our 
Far-Eastern policy. My views on this subject are best ex- 
pressed in a letter written by me to the Foreign Minister 
and dated November 28, 1901 : 

It is my profound conviction that unless we remove our misun- 
derstandings with Japan in a peaceful fashion and by making mutual 
concessions, we shall not only be under the constant menace of an 
armed clash with that Power, but we shall also be unable to stabilize 
our relations with China, who is bound to seek Japan's support against 
us, just as she sought our support and co-operation during the war 
with Japan. An armed clash with Japan in the near future would be 
a great disaster for us. I do not doubt that Russia will emerge vie- , 

torious from the struggle, but the victory will cost us too much and 
will badly injure the country economically7 Furthermore, and that 
is most important, In the eyes of the Russian people a war with Japan 
for the possession of distant Korea will not be justified, and the latent 
dissatisfaction may render more acute the alarming phenomena of our 
domestic life t which make themselves felt even in peace time. . . . 
I consider it my duty to say that, according to my opinion, when the 
worst comes to the worst, it may be advisable to give up Korea alto- 
gether. . . . Between the two evils, an armed conflict with Japan 
and the complete cession of Korea, I would unhesitatingly choose the 
second. 

The Manchurian situation was another source of trouble. 
We occupied Manchuria ostensibly for the purpose of up- 
holding the authority of the Peking Government and quell- 
ing the Boxer revolt. The disturbances ended, the Govern- 
ment resumed its seat in the capital, but we still remained 
in Manchuria. It was natural for China to turn for support 
to Japan and to the other Powers which had interests in 
the Far East. All these countries joined in demanding our 
withdrawal from Manchuria. As a result, on March 26, 
1902, we concluded an agreement with China, providing for 



n8 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

the gradual evacuation of Manchuria by our troops within 
the year ending on September 26, 1903. 

In the middle of 1902, I visited Manchuria to inspect the 
Eastern-Chinese Railway and to solve on the spot some of 
the problems relating to its construction and operation. 
Upon return, I submitted a report to His Majesty, in which 
I emphasized the advisability of evacuating Manchuria and 
of securing our influence in the Far East by peaceful means 
exclusively. The report failed to impress His Majesty. 
Had he followed my advice, we would have avoided the 
unhappy Japanese war with all its disastrous consequences. 

According to our agreement with China, we evacuated a 
part of Manchuria, but in 1903 there arose a movement 
against clearing the rest of the province without securing a 
set of guarantees from China, which would insure our inter- 
ests in Manchuria. At a conference of Ministers, which 
was called to consider the matter, Kuropatkin expressed 
himself to the effect that he "could not help looking at 
Manchuria as a territory which, in part, must become a 
Russian possession in the future." According to his opinion, 
"it was necessary not to hinder the manifestations of hos- 
tility on the part of China and the other Powers and not 
to protest against the direct violation of our expressly stipu- 
lated rights, in order thus to secure an excuse for not carry- 
ing out our obligations toward Manchuria." 

A set of guarantees was drawn up, the evacuation of 
Manchuria being conditioned upon them. The Imperial 
Chinese Government refused to grant our demands. 

In the meantime Bezobrazov's influence was rapidly 
growing, although he had been abandoned by his high pro-, 
tectors. He succeeded in enlisting the sympathies of the 
Emperor himself. In November, 1902, he was sent to the 
Far East to study the possibilities of exploiting the natural 
resources of the region. I was instructed by His Majesty 
to place a sum amounting to 2,000,000 rubles at Bezo- 



THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR 119 

brazov's disposal in the Russo-Chinese Bank, and to keep 
this transaction in strict secrecy. Bezobrazov spent two 
months in the Far East. He declared himself to be a 
personal representative of the Emperor. His presence in 
Port Arthur introduced an element of confusion into the 
administration of the region. Everywhere he advocated 
the policy of industrial aggression backed by military force. 

In those days two currents became clearly distinguishable 
in our Far-Eastern policy: one, official, represented by the 
Ministers and moderate in character, the other, secret, 
inspired by Bezobrazov and led by the Emperor himself. 
The plans of the Bezobrazov group were the subject of 
several Ministerial conferences. In all the discussions I 
figured as the implacable enemy of the Korean adventures.- 
I did not try to spare anyone's sensibilities, and I used the 
harshest and most scathing terms in denouncing Bezo- 
brazov. At the conference of March 26, 1903, I pointed 
out that, having reached the shores of the Yellow Sea 
under the jealous eyes of several foreign Powers, we must 
halt our forward movement and entrench ourselves in our 
present positions. Upon the whole, the conference was 
hostile to Bezobrazov's plans and did not approve of them. 

Seeing that Bezobrazov's influence on His Majesty was 
constantly growing and knowing that the opinion of a cer- 
tain Prince Meshchersky, a notable journalist, had consider- 
able weight with the Emperor, I overcame my aversion to 
the prince, went to see him, and asked him to write to His 
Majesty warning him of the dangers of the course of policy 
which he was pursuing in the Far East. Prince Meshcher- 
sky complied with my request. The Emperor's reply clearly 
showed that he was not impressed by Meshchersky's warn- 
ings. The note ended with an enigmatic phrase to the effect 
that on the 6th of May it will be seen what opinion I hold 
on the subject." As a matter of fact, on that day Bezo- 
brazov was promoted to the rank of Secretary of State, 



120 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

while his collaborator, Vogak, was made General of His 
Majesty's retinue. These promotions were very excep- 
tional and significant. 

The following day a new conference was called to con- 
sider Bezobrazov's projects. The Emperor was exceed- 
ingly amiable with me. He offered me one of jiis cigars 
and lighted a match for me. He obviously hoped thus to 
disarm me, but I only reiterated my opinion on the subject 
with my customary bluntness. Count Lamsdorff insisted 
that the conduct of Far-Eastern negotiations must be left 
to our diplomats and that all the treaties and legitimate 
interests of the parties concerned must be respected. To 
/ this Plehve replied that, not diplomats, but bayonets had 
* made Russia; and that the Far-Eastern problems must be 
solved by bayonets, not diplomatic pens. It must be said, 
however, that upon the whole the conference viewed rather 
favourably Bezobrazov's plans. 

Bezobrazov succeeded in forming an industrial corpora- 
tion for the purpose of exploiting the forest in Yalu River 
basin. The corporation hired a number of Chinese robber 
bands and used them as guards, but the Chinese Govern- 
ment regarded them as outlaws and there were frequent 
clashes between the guards and the regular Chinese troops. 
Relations between the representatives of the corporation 
and the Chinese authorities were very strained. Our activi- 
ties in the Yalu region began to attract the attention of 
foreign diplomacy. Japan appealed to Great Britain and 
especially to the United States. In the middle of 1903 all 
the Powers concerned were carefully watching our activities 
there. 

About that time Bezobrazov took another trip to the 
Far East. This time he travelled, not as a private person, 
but in a luxurious special train, accompanied by a numerous 
retinue. Minister of War Kuropatkin also happened to be 
in the Far East at the time, and a number of conferences 



THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR 121 

dealing with the chief problems of our Far-Eastern policy 
took place at Port Arthur. The decisions did not materially 
differ from those reached at the spring conferences held in 
St. Petersburg. The idea of annexing Manchuria was 
rejected, but it was decided to demand guarantees from the 
Peking Government intended to safeguard Russia's inter- 
ests in Manchuria. With the exception of Bezobrazov, the 
members of the conference were against an aggressive 
policy. General Kuropatkin, on his return to St. Peters- 
burg, submitted a report to His Majesty. Speaking about 
our activities in Korea, he said: 

I do not dare conceal from your Imperial Majesty my appre- 
hension that now that our enterprise in the Yalu region has be- 
come known to the whole world and that the high interest of the 
Autocrat of Russia in the undertaking has also become a matter of 
common knowledge, both at home and abroad, it is no longer possible 
to present this enterprise as a purely commercial venture, and in the 
future it will inevitably preserve a great and alarming political im- 
portance. Therefore, however great the commercial advantages of 
the enterprise may be, it appears advisable for us to sell it to foreigners 
if we do not wish to maintain a constant source of danger of a break 
with Japan. 

Kuropatkin concludes his memoir by stating that we 
must, above all, take the necessary measures to insure good 
relations with Japan, and that with this in view we must 
give up the idea of securing a lodgment in Southern Man- 
churia, contenting ourselves with strengthening our influ- 
ence in Northern Manchuria. 

In July, 1903, I also submitted a report dealing with the 
Far-Eastern situation. On the essence of the Far-Eastern 
question and on the general character of our problem in the 
Far East I had this to say: 

Rapid ways of communication have drawn the yellow races into 
the whirlpool of international intercourse. Beginning with the middle 
of the last century, industrial overproduction and the colonization 
urge directed the eager attention of Europe and America to the vast 



122 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

dormant countries of the Far East. Here, naturally enough, clashes 
arose, not only among themselves, but with the native states, which 
for thousands of years lived without any intercourse with the rest of 
the world and had developed their own culture. Given the technical 
and military superiority of the Westerners, it is not difficult to fore- 
tell the outcome of the conflict for those native states. Only those 
countries will survive which, like Japan, will have speedily acquired 
those achievements of European culture that are necessary for self- 
defence; the more inert countries will fall a prey to the powerful 
invaders and will be divided up between them. 

Such is the essence of the Far-Eastern problem. Accordingly, the 
problem of each country concerned is to obtain as large a share as 
possible of the inheritance of the outlived oriental states, especially 
of the Chinese Colossus. Russia, both geographically and historically, 
has the undisputed right to the lion's share of the expected prey. The 
elemental movement of the Russian people eastward began under 
Ivan the Terrible. Continuing ever since, it has lately stopped with 
the occupation of the Kwantung peninsula. Obviously, neither this 
territory nor Manchuria can be Russia's final goal. Given our enor- 
mous frontier line with China and our exceptionally favourable situa- 
tion, the absorption by Russia of a considerable portion of the Chi- 
nese Empire is only a question of time, unless China succeeds in 
protecting herself. But our -chief aim is to see that this absorption 
shall take place naturally, without precipitating events, without tak- 
ing premature steps, without seizing territory, in order to avoid a 
premature division of China by the Powers concerned, which would 
deprive Russia of China's most valuable provinces. 

From this viewpoint, I insisted, the Manchurian problem 
must be solved. I argued that after securing certain guar- 
antees we must evacuate the province. 

In July, 1903, it became a matter of urgent necessity to 
come to a definite decision regarding the Manchurian situa- 
tion. At the same time Japan renewed the negotiations 
with us regarding the division of our respective spheres of 
influence in Korea and Manchuria. Nevertheless, no 
definite decision was taken. The situation remained in- 
definite till the very beginning of the war. That is why 
the war found us unprepared. 



THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR 123 

I found that the Japanese proposal was, upon the whole, 
acceptable. A conference called on August I to consider 
the Japanese terms reached essentially the same conclusion. 

In the meantime a sudden break occurred in our Far- 
Eastern policy. Without the knowledge of the Ministers 
of War, Finances, and Foreign Affairs, who had previously 
been in charge of the Far-Eastern affairs, an Imperial 
decree, on July 30, instituted the post of His Imperial 
Majesty's Vjc^roy_m the Far JEast. That official was given 
the administrative and military power in the entire territory 
east of Lake Baikal and was also entrusted with the con- 
duct of diplomatic relations with China, Japan, and Korea. 
The appointee to the new post was Admiral jUexeyev, Gov- 
ernor of the Kwantung peninsula. At first, I believe, 
Alexeyev was opposed to Bezobrazov, but seeing that 
power was on the latter's side, he had apparently gone over 
to him. From that time on I considered my cause lost and 
a disastrous war inevitable. 

It was obvious to me that I could no longer remain a 
member of the Government. I have already related the 
circumstances under which I left my Ministerial post. My 
dismissal did not affect the course of our policy. We were 
headed straight for a war and at the same time we did * 
nothing to prepare ourselves for the eventuality. We acted 
as if we were certain that the Japanese would endure every- 
thing without daring to attack us. In those years the con- 
stant preoccupation of the War Ministry was the possi- 
bility of a war with the Teutonic Empires. Several months 
before the outbreak of hostilities in the Far East we were 
busy preparing for what appeared an inevitable war with 
Germany and Austria-Hungary. We went as far as ap- 
pointing army commanders. Grand Duke Nikolai Niko- 
laievich was nominated Commander-in-Chief of the forces 
which were to face the German army, while General Kuro- 



124 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

patkin was appointed to command the troops on the Aus- 
trian front. 

I deem it my duty to say that as long as the responsible 
Cabinet Ministers were unanimous in their negative atti- 
tude toward an aggressive policy in Korea, the Bezobrazov 
coterie remained powerless, in spite of its influence upon His 
Majesty. The situation radically changed when Minister 
of the Interior Plehve openly joined Bezobrazov. It was 
only then that the Emperor went over to Bezobrazov. For 
some time a duel had been going on between the latter and 
myself, and His Majesty was hesitating as to whether he 
should sacrifice him or me. 

With the creation of the post of viceroy, Alexeyev and 
Bezobrazov openly took into their hands the direction of 
our Far-Eastern policy. They elaborated grandiose fan- 
tastic schemes of exploiting our Far-Eastern possessions, 
among which they reckoned Manchuria and northern Korea. 
For that purpose they intended the Eastern-Chinese Rail- 
way Corporation and the Russo-Chinese Bank. It was 
contemplated also to attract foreign investors. While I 
was still Minister, Bezobrazov visited me several times and 
explained to me his fantastic projects. He found noth- 
ing but indifference, on my part, and an unwillingness to let 
him spend Treasury funds. The 2,000,000 rubles credit 
granted to him early in 1903 was soon exhausted, and the 
various enterprises started by him in Manchuria were left 
in pecuniary straits, for the colossal profits from the forest 
business existed only on paper and the other enterprises also 
proved a failure. They only aroused against us the Chinese 
and deepened the suspicions of the Japanese. 

In September the Emperor went to Germany and stopped 
at Darmstadt. By that time the influence of the Foreign 
Minister on the Far-Eastern affairs had been almost com- 
pletely eliminated. His Majesty conferred directly with 
Viceroy Alexeyev, without resorting to Count Lamsdorff's 



THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR 125 

offices. At Darmstadt His Majesty ratified the statutes of 
the Far-Eastern Committee and appointed Bezobrazov and 
Abaza members of that Committee. 

While the Emperor sojourned at Darmstadt, I went 
abroad. In Paris I found much optimism regarding the 
Far-Eastern situation. The French were certain that there 
would be no war with Japan, for Foreign Minister Del- 
casse declared on every occasion that, according to his in- 
formation, the war was impossible. As a matter of fact, 
he obtained his information from our Ambassador in Paris. 
He had no diplomatic intelligence from either Peking or 
Tokio, which circumstance indicates what a poor diplo- 
matic service the French had in the Far East. On the con- 
trary, the German Foreign Office was very well informed 
regarding the Russo-Japanese situation. Berlin was aware 
that Japan was making strenuous military preparations and 
that war was considered inevitable there. It appears that 
my withdrawal from the Ministry of Finances finally con- 
vinced the Japanese that nothing could avert the conflict, 
for they knew that I was the chief opponent of our reckless 
militarists. 

While His Majesty was visiting at Darmstadt, the Ger- 
man Emperor wrote to him to the effect that preparations 
were being made in the Far East for an armed conflict. 
His Majesty's reply was very characteristic. He told the 
Kaiser that there would be no war, because he did not wish 
it. What he meant, apparently, was that Russia would not 
declare war and that Japan would not dare do it. 

The Emperor returned to Tsarskoye Selo on November 
21 (December 4), and three days later Minister of 
Finances Pleske was taken ill. He was succeeded by his 
associate Romanov, a man of excellent .principles, absolutely 
honest, and of broad financial erudition. Given these quali- 
ties, he could not naturally remain at his post for any length 
of time. He was soon succeeded by Kokovtzev. 



126 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

The year 1904 was marked by several important appoint- 
ments. Early in January there was an evening party at the 
Winter Palace. In the course of it Kurino, the Japanese 
Ambassador, approached me and asked me to impress the 
Foreign Minister with the necessity of replying to Japan's 
latest note without the least delay. He told me that the 
negotiations with his country were being conducted neg- 
lectfully, with the obvious intention of delaying the solu- 
tion of the Korean and Manchurian problems. Japan was 
at the end of her patience, he declared, and if within a few 
days no reply was given, hostilities would break out. In- 
deed, on our part, the negotiations were conducted in a 
fashion which seemed to indicate our desire to compel the 
Japanese to resort to armed force. While our opponents 
repeatedly proved their willingness to yield on several 
points, we were intractable. In spite of the fact that we 
recognized the essential justice of the Japanese demands, we 
kept on systematically protracting the negotiations. 

I had known Kurino for some time. A month before 
my dismissal from the post of Minister of Finances he 
submitted to us an outline of a Russo-Japanese agreement 
which would have obviated the war. In spite of my sup- 
port, the project was forwarded to the viceroy for con- 
sideration, and endless negotiations ensued. I conveyed 
Kurino's words to Count Lamsdorff. "I can do nothing," 
he replied. "I take no part in the negotiations." 

We failed to reply in due time, and on January 26 (Rus- 
sian style) , the Japanese warships attacked our naval squad- 
ron off Port Arthur and sank several of our vessels. The 

' ' ' 3CV 

following day war was declared. There was a court recep- 
tion and a solemn church service, prayers being offered for 
victory. There was no enthusiasm noticeable among those 
present. Gloom and silence reigned in the palace and it 
was as if a heavy burden weighed down upon the people. . . . 
At the Emperor's return to the palace a feeble hurrah was 



THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR 127 

heard, but it soon died down. The following day a series 
of street demonstrations was organized by the administra- 
tion, but they met with no sympathetic response on the part 
of the population. It was apparent that the war was highly 
unpopular. No one wanted it, and many cursed it. This 
was an ominous sign. 

Viceroy Alexeyev was appointed Commander-in-Chief of 
the fighting forces. The appointment was the height of 
absurdity. He was not an army man. He could not even 
ride on horseback. Nor did he in any way distinguish him- 
self in the naval service. He made his career in a rather 
peculiar way. As a young navy officer he accompanied 
Grand Duke Alexey Alexandrovich in his voyage around 
the world. It is said that at Marseilles the merry travellers 
had a drinking bout, in the course of which the youthful 
Grand Duke behaved so indecorously and violently that he 
was arraigned by the police. It appears that Alexeyev suc- 
ceeded in persuading the authorities that it was he and not 
the Grand Duke who was guilty of the offence. He paid 
a fine, and won the friendship of the Grand Duke. Under 
Alexander III, Alexeyev became Admiral General, and 
owing to the Grand Duke's efforts was appointed Governor 
of the Kwantung province. I believe, however, that the 
Grand Duke never dreamed that his protege could be made 
Commander-in-Chief of a fighting army several hundred 
thousand strong, which was soon to be increased to a mil- 
lion. 

Under the pressure of public opinion, which assumed a 
highly distrustful attitude toward Alexeyev, on February 
8 (21) General Kuropatkin was appointed commander of 
the armies in the Far East. The appointment resulted in 
a duality of authority which was bound to produce no end 
of confusion and trouble. Kuropatkin's departure was very 
pompous. He made public speeches and behaved generally 
like a victor. It would have been more tactful to depart 



128 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

quietly and come back with pomp and triumph, but fate 
decreed otherwise. 

The evening before his departure General Kuropatkin 
spent with me, and we had an occasion td~discuss the situ- 
ation. Knowing my familiarity with Far-Eastern affairs, he 
asked my advice regarding the general conduct of the war. 
Before expressing any opinion on the subject, I wished to 
know what were the General's plans. He explained that 
we were totally unprepared for the war and it would take 
many months before we could muster enough troops to 
oppose the enemy. Until then it was his intention to retreat 
slowly and steadily in the direction of Kharbin and to leave 
Port Arthur to its fate. Having reached Kharbin and 
effected a juncture with the fresh auxiliary troops from 
European Russia, he would then open an offensive against 
the Japanese and annihilate their army. This plan of 
action appeared to me sound and I approved it. 

Before taking leave the General turned to me and said: 

"Sergey Yulyevich, you are a man of extraordinary in- 
telligence and many talents. What advice will you give me 
before I leave?" 

"I have a good piece of advice for you," I replied. "Only 
you would not take it." 

He insisted on hearing what I had to say. 

"Who is going with you to the Far East?" I asked him. 
He explained that he was accompanied by several adjutants 
who would later form his staff. 

"Are they altogether reliable?" 

"Certainly," he replied. 

"If such is the case," I said, "here is my advice to you. 
Admiral Alexeyev is at present at Mukden. Of course, you 
will go straight there. Now this is what I would do if I 
were you. On arriving at Mukden I would send my staff 
officers to Admiral Alexeyev with orders to arrest him. In 
view of your prestige in the army your order would no 



THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR 129 

doubt be obeyed. Then I would immediately send him with 
a convoy to St. Petersburg on the first west-bound train. 
Simultaneously I would send to His Majesty a dispatch 
reading, in substance, as follows: 'Your Majesty, for the 
sake of the successful execution of the great task that you 
have imposed upon me, I found it necessary upon arriving 
at the front first of all to arrest the Commander-in-Chief 
and dispatch him to St. Petersburg. Otherwise the success- 
ful conduct of the war is unthinkable. I beg your Imperial 
Majesty either to order me shot for such a transgression 
or else to forgive me for the sake of the country.' ' 

The General burst out laughing, waved his hand and 
said: "You are always joking, Sergey Yulyevich." I as- 
sured him that I was quite in earnest and that I foresaw 
trouble as a result of the dual authority which his arrival 
at the front would create. 

The commander of the Far Eastern army, Kuropatkin, 
considered Alexeyev, not without ground, a complete nonen- 
tity and, above all, a self-seeking office-hunter, while, on his 
part, the Commander-in-Chief hated Kuropatkin and at 
heart wished to see him fail. The two made contradictory 
reports to the central Government, but in practice Kuropat- 
kin compromised so as to avoid a final break. In his in- 
most feelings, the Emperor sympathized with the tactics 
advocated by Alexeyev, but as usual he could not make up 
his mind and he kept on acting as if his main purpose was to 
deceive both of his Generals. Kuropatkin afterwards told 
me that he had in his possession a series of telegrams which 
would present in their true light the failures of the first 
part of the campaign, that is, up to Alexeyev's dismissal. 
In an attempt further to justify himself, Kuropatkin also 
told me that stupid Generals had been forced on him and 
that the central authorities had constantly interfered with 
him. To these complaints I replied that it was all his 
fault, for he had not followed the advice I had given him 



130 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

on the eve of his departure for the front. If he found, I 
said, that he could have no freedom of action, he should 
have resigned. 

To what extent optimism prevailed among our military 
leaders at the beginning of the war and how we under- 
valued the fighting capacity of the Japanese, may be seen 
from the following circumstance. In discussing the size of 
the army which was to be put on the front, General Kuro- 
patkin disagreed with former War Minister Vannovski. 
While General Kuropatkin believed that the proportion of 
our army to the Japanese should be two to three, the former 
Minister thought that one Russian soldier would hold his 
own against two Japanese. 

Throughout the year 1904 the Emperor reviewed all the 
army contingents which were being sent to the front. To 
that end he visited Bielgorod, Poltava, Tula, Moscow, Ko- 
lomma, Penza, Syzran. In September he visited a number 
of western cities and inspected the warships at Reval. In 
October he went to Suvalki, Vitebsk and neighbouring 
points. In December he visited a number of points in. the 
south. The Emperor usually delivered a short speech wish- 
ing the departing troops a good voyage. Then he, as well 
as Her Majesty, distributed among the soldiers various 
icons, including the icon of the recently canonized St. Ser- 
aphim of Sarov. Inasmuch as throughout the year we had 
nothing but defeats, this gave General Dragomirov an 
occasion to coin a very sarcastic mot, which went the rounds 
of the country. "We are attacking the Japanese with 
icons," he said, "while they use bullets against us." 

The course of the war in 1904 presents itself as follows 
(the dates are according to the Russian calendar) : On 
March 31, our flagship Petropavlovsk was sunk, and Ad- 
miral Makarov and a part of the crew went down with the 
ship. That catastrophe condemned our entire Far-Eastern 
fleet to complete inaction. In the middle of April we lost 



THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR 131 

the battle of Turenchen. At the end of May we were de- 
feated in an engagement off Port Arthur. In August 
we lost an important battle near Liao-Yang and began our 
retreat toward Mukden. When we reached that city, Kuro- 
patkin declared in his order of the day that we would not 
retreat another step. On December 20, Port Arthur fell. 
Then we were defeated near Mukden and were forced to 
retreat in the direction of Kharbin. 

As I had foreseen, there was constant friction between 
Kuropatkin and Alexeyev. The former followed a definite 
plan of systematic retreat. The latter, on the contrary, 
advocated the tactics of aggression. Sitting in his luxurious 
study he spoke glibly of marching on Port Arthur and lick- 
ing the Japanese. Neither plan was carried out with any 
degree of consistency. Both appealed to St. Petersburg for 
instructions and many of the military measures taken were 
ordered from the capital. The result of this absurd method 
of conducting war was a successive series of most shameful 
defeats. In the end the Commander-in-Chief was dismissed 
and ordered to go to St. Petersburg, while General Kuro- 
patkin was appointed in his stead. 

The loss of the battle of Mukden revealed the complete 
incompetence of General Kiarop5,Jtkin as a Commander-in- 
Chief. He was succeeded by General Linevich, who had 
distinguished himself by the capture of Peking and the loot- 
ing, of the Imperial palace there. General Linevich, person- 
ally a brave soldier, could do nothing to remedy the situa- 
tion. The army was completely demoralized and revolu- 
tionized. No sane man could help seeing that on land we 
had lost all chances of victory. I believe that the cause of 
our continual defeats lay in our complete unpreparedness, 
and also in the duality of our military authority. General 
Rediger, who had become War Minister before Kuropatkin 
was dismissed, openly expressed the opinion that we had 
lost the war. 



132 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

When I stayed in Germany and conducted the negoti- 
ation for the renewal of the commercial treaty I still be- 
lieved that, while our navy would be defeated, our army 
would be victorious. I had confidence in Kuropatkin, al- 
though I had no illusions as to his abilities as a military 
leader. It appeared to me impossible that Japan should 
keep on inflicting one defeat after another upon us. But 
when I returned to St. Petersburg I clearly perceived that 
the war was lost. From that time on my efforts were 
directed toward the speediest conclusion of peace. But my 
efforts were in vain and it was only after we had been de- 
feated on all sides that we decided to open peace nego- 
tiations. 

After the defeat of Mukden, the people, who are guided 
not by reason but by all manner of mystic impulses, con- 
ceived the hope of changing the destinies of war in our 
favour by sending our Baltic fleet to the Far East. They 
believed that under the command of Admiral Rozhdest- 
vensky our Baltic fleet would defeat the Japanese. Of 
course, it was a wild fantasy. It was a thoughtless plan, 
dictated by hope rather than by cold reason. It was clear 
to every sane observer that the fleet was doomed. After 
the fall of Port Arthur, the situation of Rozhdestvensky's 
fleet became more precarious, for it could expect no help 
from anywhere and it had no port in which to seek refuge 
in emergency. On May 14, 1905, there occurred the dis- 
astrous Tsushima battle and our entire fleet was buried in 
the Japanese waters. It was the death blow to our am- 
bitions in the Far East. After this crushing defeat His 
Majesty became inclined toward the idea of peace. 

The Tsushima defeat was a signal for the abolition of 
the Far Eastern Committee and the dismissal of Admiral 
Alexeyev from the post of Viceroy of the Far East. It was 
something in the nature of a funeral service for the dead 
body of Bezobrazov's adventure. The admiral was decor- 



THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR 133 

ated with the Cross of St. George, although he had never 
smelled powder. During the war he had stayed in his 
palazzo at Mukden and was more preoccupied with his 
bodily comforts than with the state of the army. The ways 
whereby Russians receive high appointments and military 
decorations are past finding out. 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 

ON the morning of July 29 (Russian style), 1905, I 
was appointed chief plenipotentiary for the purpose of con- 
ducting peace negotiations with Japan. Muraviov, our 
Ambassador to Rome, was summoned to St. Petersburg and 
appointed plenipotentiary. I had a frank conversation with 
him in the course of an evening which he spent with me on 
his arrival in the capital. He was aware, he told me, that 
the task of conducting the peace parley was a thankless one, 
for, whatever the outcome, he would be the target of num- 
erous attacks. Nevertheless, he said, he decided to sacri- 
fice his personal career and accept the Emperor's offer. A 
stay abroad in a country living under a parliamentary re- 
gime, he declared, had convinced him that a constitution 
alone would save Russia. The Ambassador did not show 
any signs of ill health, and he said that he felt fit as a fiddle. 

Several days later Count Lamsdorff approached me and 
informed me that the Emperor had asked him to find out 
privately whether I would accept the post of first pleni- 
potentiary and conduct the negotiations with Japan. It 
appeared that on the previous day Muraviov came to His 
Majesty and, alleging ill health, implored the Emperor to 
free him of the task with which he had been entrusted. 
The count had a definite theory as to why Muraviov refused 
the post. In the first place, Count Lamsdorff declared, 
Muraviov was completely unprepared for the task, and he 
was intelligent enough to perceive that he was running great 
risks in undertaking it. In the second place, he was rather 

134 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 135 

disappointed to find that His Majesty had fixed the pleni- 
potentiary's emolument at 15,000 rubles. He had expected 
100,000. 

Count Lamsdorff appealed to my patriotism. He ex- 
plained that he could not go himself, for he was needed at 
his place of duty. As for his associate, Prince Obolensky, 
the count thought him unfit for the task. In the end I 
declared to the count that I would not decline the mission 
if the Emperor in person either asked me or ordered me 
to accept. The following day I was summoned to the Em- 
peror. He received me very amiably and asked me to take 
upon myself the conduct of the peace negotiations. I re- 
plied that I was always ready to serve my Emperor and 
country. His Majesty thanked me, and said it was his 
sincere desire that the pourparlers should result in peace. 
He added, however, that he would not pay a kopeck of 
indemnity or cede an inch of Russian territory. 

Several days later I set out for the United States of 
America. At the time of my departure our financial situ- 
ation was as follows. We had exhausted all our means and 
had lost our credit abroad. There was not the slightest 
hope of floating either a domestic or a foreign loan. We 
could continue the war only by resorting to new issues of 
paper money, that is, by preparing the way for a complete 
financial and consequently economic collapse. As a matter 
of fact, during the war the amount of paper currency had 
grown from 600,000,000 to 1,200,000,000 rubles. This 
lamentable situation was the result of Kokovtzev's lack of 
experience, on one hand, and of our optimism regarding the 
outcome of the war, on the other. 

Personally I am convinced that Kuropatkin and Linevich 
prayed to God for the success of my mission. Indeed, peace 
was the only way out for them, for then they could say: 
"Yes, it is true that we were repeatedly beaten, but were 



136 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

it not for this peace we would have come out on top in 
the end." 

The mission included the following members : Martens, 
Professor Emeritus of international law at the University 
of St. Petersburg, and honorary member of many foreign 
universities, a man of great knowledge but by no means 
broad-minded; Planson, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 
a typical bureaucrat, above all anxious to please his supe- 
riors ; Pokotilov, our Ambassador to China, a gifted states- 
man who had always opposed our aggressive policy in the 
Far East; Shipov, who was later to become Minister of 
Finances and who represented that Ministry; General Yer- 
moloy, who represented the War Ministry and was the offi- 
cial guardian of the dignity of our valiant but brainless 
army; Colonel Samoylov, the second representative of the 
War Ministry, who believed that our cause was lost and 
that it was necessary to conclude peace at any price; Cap- 
tain Rusin, delegated by the Naval Ministry, whose views 
were essentially in agreement with Samoylov's. With 
Baron Rosen, the second plenipotentiary, I became 
acquainted only upon my arrival in America. He had the 
mediocre intelligence of a Baltic German and the manners 
of a perfect gentleman. He was not abreast of the affairs 
in Russia and, until he heard Colonel Samoylov's and Cap- 
tain Rusin's tales of the situation at the front he vacillated 
in his attitude toward peace. While he took no active 
part in the negotiations, he did all he could to be of service 
to me. 

It was arranged that part of my retinue should meet me 
at Cherbourg, where I was to embark, and that the rest 
should join me in New York. I left St. Petersburg accom- 
panied by my wife with our several-months-old grandson, 
Leo Naryshkin, and a body of servants. We stopped in 
Paris, where I spent several days. In the French capital 
my feelings as a Russian patriot were hurt at every step. 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 137 

The public treated me, the chief plenipotentiary of the 
autocrat of all the Russias, as a representative of some 
political nonentity. Some a slight minority sympathized 
with me, others did not conceal their joy at our misfortune; 
but the majority treated me with complete indifference. At 
the station in Paris cries of Faites la paix were heard. 
The attitude of the radical press toward the Emperor and 
our country were insulting. 

I left Paris for Cherbourg accompanied by my wife, our 
daughter and her husband, Naryshkin, and also a host of 
journalists. I had intended to go aboard our steamer in the 
evening, but the ship was delayed by a storm and I did not 
embark until the next morning. We spent the night at an 
hotel, which was so crowded that we could barely secure two 
uncomfortable rooms. At Cherbourg the disdainful atti- 
tude of the French toward us was even more marked. It 
may well be, however, that, in my delicate role as repre- 
sentative of a country which had by chance become en- 
tangled in an unfortunate position, I was inclined to be 
morbidly sensitive and suffer from imaginary affronts and 
animosities. 

The steamer on which we were to make our passage 
was, if I remember rightly, the Wilhelm der Grosse of 
the Hamburg Steamship Company, one of the largest and 
fastest ocean-going vessels. On board we were met by 
the captain and the crew with great pomp, the band playing 
the Russian national hymn when I reached the deck. Some 
of my associates, namely, Colonel Samoylov, Planson, Na- 
bokov, Korostovetz and Martens, were already on board. 
A number of the journalists who accompanied us I knew 
personally. Such were Bryanchaninov, a young man not 
without ability, but essentially an amateur and a giddy 
chatterbox, and Suvorin, a charming youth both Russians. 
Of the foreign correspondents I knew Dr. Dillon, a promi- 
nent and able English publicist and a man of honour and 



i 3 8 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

sincerity, known to fame both in England and America. A 
graduate of a Russian university, he had at one time taught 
comparative philology at the University of Kharkov. He 
speaks and writes Russian very well and his familiarity 
with Russian conditions, especially recent, is very great in- 
deed. He has connections in all our political parties and 
social groups. Among the journalists was also Mackenzie 
Wallace, special correspondent for King Edward. To judge 
by the fact that until just the moment of signing he asserted 
that the treaty would not be concluded, he must have been 
constantly misleading His Majesty, the King of England. 
At one time Wallace was political editor of the Times. 
He may be a good publicist, but he has always misinformed 
his compatriots about Russia. He speaks Russian well. 
He has a weakness for everything aristocratic. When in 
Russia he stays with aristocratic families and hobnobs with 
the smart set exclusively. All he hears there he takes for 
gospel truth and faithfully transmits it to his countrymen. 
No one takes him seriously in England though. Some time 
ago he wrote a book about the Russian peasantry, in which 
he sang paeans to our obshchina (communal land system). 

Six months before the outburst of our revolution (1905- 
1906), he issued a new edition of this work, where he as- 
serted that, owing to the wise obshchina (communal) or- 
ganization of our peasantry, a revolution in Russia was an 
impossibility. The winter of 1906-1907 he spent in St. 
Petersburg and, I was told, referred to me in his reports 
in terms far from flattering. He must have been influenced 
by the circle with which he rubbed elbows. The fact that 
I slighted him in America may also account for the ill-will 
he bears me. On one occasion I told him that his work 
on the Russian peasantry showed how even intelligent 
people may err when looking at things through other 
people's eyes. 

We also had with us Hademant, who wrote for the 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 139 

Matin. An able professional newspaper man, he was 
well disposed to us. There were also other correspond- 
ents, but as far as Europe was concerned the information 
regarding the course of the negotiations was practically 
controlled by Hademant and Dr. Dillon. The German 
press had no prominent representative at the Conference. 

Our voyage lasted six days. The ocean was very calm, 
so that I felt none of the discomforts of sea travel. We 
took our meals apart from the general public, and several 
times I invited some of the newspaper men to dinner. A 
couple of times I dined in the general dining-room. I dis- 
covered that among the passengers there were quite a few 
seekers of strong sensations who were sailing to Portsmouth 
out of sheer curiosity to witness the political joust between 
myself and Komura. 

From mid-ocean Dr. Dillon flashed over the wireless 
telegraph his interview with me relating to the coming nego- 
tiations. It was the first case in the history of the world 
press of an interview transmitted by wireless from a ship 
on the high seas. The interview appeared in all the Euro- 
pean papers and contributed a great deal toward acquaint- 
ing the world with my views on the nature of my task. 

Hardly two weeks had passed since my unexpected ap- 
pointment as plenipotentiary and during all those days I 
was constantly rushed and unable to collect my thoughts. 
But on board ship I had ample opportunity to remain alone 
and reflect. It was there that I prepared myself for the 
diplomatic duel and determined my plan of battle. I re- 
solved to base my tactics on the following principles : ( i ) 
Not to show that we were in the least anxious to make 
peace, and to convey the impression that if His Majesty had 
consented to the negotiations, it was merely because of the 
universal desire on the part of all countries to see the war 
terminated; (2) to act as befitted the representative of the 
greatest empire on earth, undismayed by the fact that that 



140 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

mighty empire had become involved temporarily in a slight 
difficulty; (3) in view of the tremendous influence of the 
press in America, to show it every attention and to be acces- 
sible to all its representatives; (4) to behave with demo- 
cratic simplicity and without a shadow of snobbishness, so 
as to win the sympathy of the Americans; (5) in view of 
the considerable influence of the Jews on the press and on 
other aspects of American life, especially in New York, not 
to exhibit any hostility toward them, which conduct was 
entirely in keeping with my opinion on the Jewish problem. 
This program of action I followed strictly throughout my 
stay in the United States, where I lived, as it were, in a glass 
house, always in everybody's sight like an actor on the 
stage. I believe I owe 1 my diplomatic success partly to that 
program. On board our liner I began to put my plan into 
effect, and, as a result, there was soon established between 
me and the numerous passengers a relationship of cordiality, 
which, spreading from the steamer into the public and the 
press, created an atmosphere favourable to myself and Rus- 
sia. Not only did I not shun the reporters, but, on the 
contrary, I was always at their disposal and I actually met 
them half-way in their desire to keep the world abreast of 
what was going on at the Conference. Naturally, I had to 
be constantly on the alert, carefully weighing every word 
I uttered, in order to secure the best results for the cause 
which I was championing. 

It is an open secret that nearly all of Japan's war loans 
were floated on the American money market, so that Amer- 
ica practically financed Japan in her clash with us. Further- 
more, American public opinion, upon the whole, was on our 
enemy's side. Such was the situation which I found on rny 
arrival in the United States. Anticipating upon the current 
of events, I may say that I succeeded in swerving American 
public opinion over to us. By my course of action I grad- 
ually won the press over to my side, and, consequently, also 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 141 

to the side of the cause which the will of my Monarch had 
entrusted to my charge, so that when I left the transatlantic 
republic practically the whole press was our champion. The 
press, in its turn, was instrumental in bringing about a 
complete change in the public opinion of the country in 
favour of my person and of the cause I upheld. 

In this regard the Japanese plenipotentiary, Komura, 
committed a grave blunder, which is all the more surpris- 
ing since he was brought up in the United States and knew 
the spirit of the country. He rather avoided the press, 
endeavouring to keep from it many circumstances of the 
matter. On my part, I took advantage of my adversary's 
tactlessness to stir up the press against him and his cause. 
At the very beginning of the negotiations I moved that the 
discussions should be wholly accessible to the representa- 
tives of the press, as if to say that I was ready to take the 
whole world into my confidence and that in my capacity of 
plenipotentiary of the Russian Czar I had no secrets or side 
purposes. I knew, of course, that the Japanese would op- 
pose me. As a matter of fact, at the instance of my oppo- 
nents, the newspaper men were not admitted to the sessions. 
This incident immediately became known to the journalists 
and greatly prejudiced the cause of Japan in their eyes. 
It was decided to issue brief statements for the press after 
each session. These were written by the secretaries and 
passed by the plenipotentiaries. Before long the reporters 
found out that it was the severity of the Japanese censor- 
ship which was responsible for the brevity and scarcity of 
the bulletins. The American people's friendship toward 
Russia was growing, while their sympathy for the Japanese 
cause was constantly on the wane. 

My personal behaviour may also partly account for the 
transformation of American public opinion. I took care to 
treat all the Americans with whom I came into contact with 
the utmost simplicity of manner. When travelling, whether 



142 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

on special trains, government motor cars or steamers, I 
thanked everyone, talked with the engineers and shook 
liaTids~wftH~them, in a word, I treated everybody, of what- 
ever social position, as an equal. This behaviour was a 
heavy strain on me as all acting is to the unaccustomed, but 
it surely was worth the trouble. Not only did it not detract 
from my dignity as the chief plenipotentiary of the Russian 
Emperor, but, on the contrary, greatly enhanced my pres- 
tige. The Americans were accustomed to think of an emis- 
sary from the autocrat of all the Russias as a forbidding 
and inaccessible personage, not unlike the other foreign 
officials who visited the country. And here they discovered, 
not without keen pleasure, that one of the highest digni- 
taries of the Russian Empire, the President of the Council 
of Ministers and the Ambassador Extraordinary of the 
Emperor himself, was a simple, accessible and amiable man, 
treating the most humble citizen as his equal. 

As we entered the New York waters, on the sixth day of 
our journey, we were met by a whole flotilla of small vessels 
and motor boats. They were filled with newspaper men 
and curious people who were anxious to see the Russian 
plenipotentiary. The reporters boarded our steamer and 
greeted me in the name of the American press. I, on my 
part, gave expression to the feeling of joy which animated 
me, I said, on the threshold of the country which had always 
been on friendly terms with Russia. I also said a few flat- 
tering words about the press, which plays such a prominent 
part in America. From that moment until my departure 
from the United States I was under the surveillance, so to 
speak, of the newspaper men, who literally watched my 
every step. During my stay I was the object of innumer- 
able snapshots taken with kodaks. All sorts of people, 
especially ladies, would approach me and ask me to remain 
quiet for a moment in order to be snapped. Every day I 
would receive numberless written requests, coming from 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 143 

every part of the country, for my autograph. These auto- 
graph hunters, especially ladies, would also call on me in 
person. I cheerfully satisfied everyone and, generally, I 
tried to show every possible attention to my visitors, above 
all to representatives of the press. 

On disembarking we were met by Ambassador Rosen, 
second plenipotentiary, with his assistants. He took me in 
his car to the best hotel in New York, situated on the city's 
principal street. A suite of rooms, consisting of two 
studies, a large parlour, a dining-room, a bedroom, a dress- 
ing room and a room for my valet, was kept in readiness for 
me at this hotel. The charge for the apartment was 380 
rubles a day. Over the balcony adjacent to my room flut- 
tered a huge Russian flag, which attracted everybody's at- 
tention. The weather was extremely sultry, and a great 
many New Yorkers were out in the country. 

At President Roosevelt's order several secret service 
agents were detailed to guard me. They looked, spoke and 
behaved like gentlemen, these American sleuths. There was 
nothing to mark off these plain-clothes men from other men 
on the street, at least to a foreigner's eyes. In Europe 
it is very easy to recognize a secret agent. In St. Peters- 
burg he dresses like an ordinary mortal, but you can spot 
him from afar: he wears a stiff hat and carries a large 
black umbrella. The appearance of this guard was an un- 
pleasant surprise to me. There were rumours, Baron Rosen 
explained to me in response to my inquiry, that an attempt 
upon my life might be made by the agents of a certain 
group of extreme Japanese militarists who were seeking to 
thwart the conclusion of peace. It was also rumoured, he 
said, that an attempt on my life might come from another 
quarter, namely, from the Jews swarming in New York. 
They had emigrated after the pogroms which followed in 
the wake of the Kishinev pogrom organized by Plehve. 
After the treaty was signed, the secret guard was rein- 



i 4 4 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

forced, for the reason that the Japanese residing in the 
United States were believed to be preparing an attempt 
upon my life. 

On the day following my arrival in New York I took an 
automobile and, accompanied by an Embassy official, I 
visited the Jewish ghetto, populated mostly by Russian 
emigrants. By that time the Jewish population of New 
York had reached half a million. The Jews soon recog- 
nized me. At first they looked askance at me, but when I 
greeted several of them and exchanged a few words in Rus- 
sian with others, the ice was broken, and most of them 
began to treat me kindly. Upon my return to the hotel I 
found the agent who was assigned to accompany me during 
my visits. When he learned that I had visited the ghetto 
and remained unharmed, he was somewhat taken aback, for, 
according to the information in possession of the police, 
there was a great deal of animosity toward me among the 
Jews. 

The same day I paid a visit to President Roosevelt, at 
Oyster Bay, within one hour's ride from the city. Baron 
Rosen accompanied me. Roosevelt occupied a small house 
of his own, in which he still lives, having retired into private 
life. It looked like an ordinary summer house of a burgher 
of small means. All the servants at the house were black. 
Roosevelt has been a life-long advocate of full equality of 
the negroes and the whites and he has always championed 
the cause of the coloured population of the United States. 
Naturally, the negroes' attitude toward him is one of re- 
spect and love, while, on the other hand, he is attacked by 
a portion of the whites, which is small, however. I had a, 
long business talk with the President. He was displeased 
by my attitude. He declared that my views on the subject 
precluded the possibility of an agreement with Japan. It 
seemed to him that after the initial formulation of diametri- 
cally opposed and irreconcilable viewpoints by the two 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 145 

sides, the Conference would be dissolved. Then we had 
luncheon, at which, besides the host and the two guests, there 
were the President's wife, his daughter by his first wife, and 
her husband. The luncheon was more than simple and, for 
a European, almost indigestible. There was no tablecloth, 
and ice water instead of wine. A little wine was served to 
Baron Rosen as an exception. I noticed that, generally 
speaking, people ate very poorly in America. What sur- 
prised me most was that the host, and not the hostess, was 
the first to seat himself at table and the first to rise, and that 
the courses were served first not to his wife but to himself. 
I also noticed that the hostess walked behind the President. 
All this is quite contrary to European manners and customs. 
The principle of "ladies first" applies to the wife of the 
French President, just as to any other woman. Priority is 
given to the French President only at a strictly formal 
function, but then his wife usually does not participate in 
them. 

After luncheon, we resumed our conversation, but, as the 
President's wife took part in it, it was not in the nature 
of a business talk. It was agreed that the next day I would 
meet the Japanese plenipotentiary with his retinue on board 
the President's yacht in his presence. After a meeting on 
the yacht and a formal exchange of greetings Baron Rosen 
and I were to sail in one warship, and Komura with his 
retinue in another, direct to Portsmouth, where the Con- 
ference was to take place. 

At the appointed hour I left the hotel and made my way 
to the docks, where crowds of people greeted me in silence. 
We boarded a small steamer and set out for the President's 
yacht. Our way was marked by continuous roaring and 
shrieking of sirens and factory whistles, which is a peculiar 
American way of saluting. It is curious to note that the 
progress of the J apanese was not marked by any such mani- 
festation. Whe.u we reached our destination, we were 



146 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

saluted by the Presidential yacht in the conventional way. 
Japan's representatives were greeted in the same manner. 

As soon as we reached the deck, the President went 
through the ceremony of introducing us to our opponents 
and forthwith invited us to luncheon. We took it standing, 
so as to avoid all delicate questions of priority in seating the 
guests. I expressed to Baron Rosen my apprehension that 
the Japanese would be given some advantage over us. I 
pointed out to the Baron, for instance, that I would not 
suffer a toast to our Emperor offered after one to the Mik- 
ado. I feared that the President, as a typical American 
inexperienced in and careless of formalities, would make a 
mess of the whole business. Baron Rosen took up the mat- 
ter with the assistant Secretary for Foreign Affairs who had 
served for a long time in St. Petersburg at the American 
Embassy. He was appointed to take care of the Confer- 
ence and arrange the ceremonial so as to avoid all friction. 
As for the toast, it was offered in connection with the Presi- 
dent's speech simultaneously in honour of the two monarchs. 
My first meeting with the Japanese was morally very pain- 
ful to me, for, after all, I represented a country which, 
although the greatest empire on earth, had been defeated 
in war. The interview was formal and very stiff. As we 
were leaving the stateroom, our group, including the Presi- 
dent, myself, Baron Rosen, Komura and the second Japa- 
nese plenipotentiary, the Japanese Consul in New York, 
Takahira, was photographed, in accordance with President 
Roosevelt's wish. The photograph was then given to every 
member of the Conference and reproduced in all the Amer- 
ican newspapers. After taking leave of the President and 
the Japanese, we went on board a warship sailing directly to 
Portsmouth. 

Inasmuch as I am not a lover of sea travel and as, fur- 
thermore, I was anxious to see Boston, I landed at Newport 
in the company of one of my secretaries with a view to 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 147 

making the remainder of my way to Portsmouth by land. 
The rest of the party continued their journey on board the 
warship. 

After having luncheon with the commander of the port, 
I went out riding to see the sights of Newport. The town 
proper is rather small and by no means remarkable, but it 
is surrounded by country houses which are the most luxuri- 
ous and palatial in the land. It is the summer residence 
of all the New York millionaires and the meeting-place of 
America's rich and, to a certain extent, of wealthy Euro- 
peans. 

Although the hour was early, I noticed a great many 
equestrians. Their attire somewhat surprised me. The 
men wore light, coloured shirts, light trousers and leather 
gaiters, and were bareheaded in spite of the hot sun. The 
women were also hatless and wore light and rather short 
riding habits. 

The port commander, he returned my visit two years 
later at Homburg, near Frankfort, Germany, told me that 
originally the American Government planned to have the 
peace conference meet at Newport, which with respect to 
comforts, luxuries and amusements is, of course, much 
superior to Portsmouth. Finally, however, he said, Ports- 
mouth was chosen, for the following reason. It was feared, 
and not without ground, that the "smart set" at Newport 
would cultivate the Russian representatives and fete and 
pamper them, while the Japanese would be neglected. This 
was inevitable, for, whatever the political sympathies of 
the Americans might be, as members of the white race they 
could not help feeling socially attracted to us Russians and 
repelled from the Japanese. 

From Newport I proceeded to Boston in a special train. 
I arrived there in the evening and was immediately recog- 
nized. The next day I drove through the streets of the 
city and visited Harvard University, one of the best and 



148 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

oldest institutions of higher learning in the country. Presi- 
dent Roosevelt is a Harvard alumnus. On one occasion he 
told me that he did not wish to run for the office of presi- 
dent the next term. His ambition was, he added, to be 
elected president of Harvard University. I was met by 
the president of the university and some of the professors 
and I had lunch with them. On my way back I visited some 
sections of the city, returned to the hotel and then drove to 
the railway station, intending to take a train for Ports- 
mouth. The secret service men, who accompanied me in 
another automobile, asked me to use a side passage in mak- 
ing my way to the train. They saw fit to escort me to the 
train under a special guard. The station was crowded with 
people of the Jewish type, and apparently the American 
authorities feared a demonstration or an attack upon me 
on the part of the Jews. My guardian angels also begged 
me not to leave the car, but since a great many people were 
visibly anxious to speak to me, I stepped on the platform. 
The men near me took off their hats. I followed their 
example, approached one group and struck up a conversa- 
tion. They were Jews who had emigrated from Russia. 
We spoke Russian, and I still vividly recall the substance 
of the talk I had with them. Some of them were American- 
born or had come there during childhood, they told me, but 
most of them had been in America only a few years. They 
had not been able, they said, to withstand the oppression 
any longer. I was anxious to know how they were getting 
on economically. They explained to me that in America 
they enjoyed full liberty and equal rights, and for that 
reason had no great difficulty in securing a more or less 
comfortable living. I then inquired whether they were satis- 
fied with their lot. The men nearest to me began to talk 
fast. No, they were very homesick and they longed for 
Russia. Russia's soil, they said, held the bones of their 
ancestors, and so she would forever remain their father- 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 149 

land. They had become American citizens, they remarked, 
but they could never forget Russia and when they were alone 
and thought of life and death, their hearts naturally turned 
to their ancestors and thus to Russia. "We do not love the 
Russian regime," they told me, "but we love Russia above 
all else. Therefore, please, do not believe those people 
who will tell you that we side with Japan. We wish you 
success at the Conference, as the representative of the Rus- 
sian people, and we shall pray to God for you." The land 
of Russia is to them the dearest land on earth. As I took 
leave of these people, a loud "Hurrah!" resounded in the 
air. A similar attitude toward Russia I found also among 
the Jews of Portsmouth. 

In the evening of the same day I reached Portsmouth, 
which is a combination of a naval base and a small town, the 
latter being the summer residence of middle class people. 
At the hotel I found some of the members of my retinue, 
who had preferred to come to Portsmouth by rail instead 
of by sea. The warships which carried the diplomatic mis- 
sions were due at Portsmouth the next morning. Our vessel 
was the first to arrive. Earlier in the morning I had stolen 
incognito into the naval port and, as soon as our warship 
entered the harbour, I made my way to her in a motor 
boat, boarded and later disembarked accompanied by Baron 
Rosen and the rest of our group. A naval crew, headed by 
the port authorities and a military band, were ashore to 
salute us. 

From the port we proceeded straight to the Naval Build- 
ing. One of the two wings was assigned to us for our offices, 
the other to the Japanese. The two wings are connected 
by a large hall, in which the sessions of the Conference took 
place. Opposite that hall there were vast rooms where the 
members of the Conference had tea and lunch. After our 
arrival in Portsmouth we were considered the guests of the 
American people, and so we were housed and fed at the 



150 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

expense of the United States Government. We also had 
government motor cars at our disposal. All the members 
of the Conference were accommodated in the largest avail- 
able hotel, but the hotel and the town in general were so 
overcrowded that I, the chief plenipotentiary of the Em- 
peror of Russia, was assigned but two tiny rooms for my- 
self and another small one for my two valets. My study 
was almost a glass room, so that all I did there was plainly 
visible not only from the many hotel rooms and adjacent 
balconies, but even from the road to passers-by. Natur- 
ally, that road was constantly thronged by curious people 
who were anxious to catch a glimpse of the Russian pleni- 
potentiary at work. Needless to say, the press correspond- 
ents hung around the place all day. Not satisfied with keep- 
ing in constant touch with my secretaries, they solicited me 
ceaselessly for personal interviews, the reporters of each 
paper endeavouring to secure a separate interview so as to 
obtain an exclusive story. 

After the first morning session of the Conference was 
over, we had luncheon with some of the port officials and 
their wives, to whom we had previously been introduced. 
Afterward it became customary for the first and second 
plenipotentiaries on each side to have luncheon at one table. 
We also had with us two interpreters, ready to assist us 
should the Japanese resort to their own language. Liter- 
ally dozens of courses were served, but the dishes were 
mostly cold. It appears that the government had ordered 
hundreds of various luxuriously prepared dishes and stored 
them in refrigerators to feed us on them. I soon noticed 
that one must be very careful with his food. Two or three 
days later I decided to refrain completely from eating it, 
and for a time I touched nothing but bread and some vege- 
tables. Komura, on the contrary, ate everything with great 
appetite. On one occasion I called his attention to the 
danger lurking in our food, but he wanted to display his 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 151 

Japanese intrepidity and said that he was not afraid, that 
he could eat everything, and kept on eating. As a result, 
while I left Portsmouth hale and hearty, Komura was taken 
ill at the end of the Conference and developed an intes- 
tinal variety of typhus, so that when I visited him before 
my departure from the United States, I found him sick in 
bed. 

After the first session we set out for the City Hall, riding 
in open landaus, which formed a solemn procession. The 
road was lined with spectators and troops who saluted us. 
I recall one incident of that parade which is rather out of 
keeping with our notion of a disciplined army. As I was 
riding past one of the detachments I suddenly heard the 
traditional Russian military greeting: "I wish you good 
health, your Excellency." I looked back and noticed a 
soldier presenting arms to me. It must have been an Amer- 
ican soldier of Russian-Jewish extraction. What surprised 
me was that the officers did not react to this breach of dis- 
cipline. At the City Hall we were met by the local mayor 
and other municipal officials, and exchanged greetings with 
them. 

At first we Russians dined at a separate table in the 
general dining-rooms of the hotel. Later we found it more 
comfortable to have our dinner served in a separate room 
adjacent to my apartment. The food was prepared by 
special order in accordance with our instructions, for it is 
highly dangerous to eat the ordinary food which is served 
in America. I have arrived at the conclusion that Ameri- 
cans have no culinary taste and that they can eat almost 
anything that comes in their way, even if it is not fresh, 
provided the food is properly seasoned and properly 
served. 

The next day the business sessions of the Conference 
began. It may be appropriate to say a few words here 
about my chief opponent, Komura. I had previously met 



152 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

him in St. Petersburg while he was Japanese ambassador. 
I was also acquainted with some of the members of his staff. 
Komura is, no doubt, a man of prominence, but his appear- 
ance and manners are rather unattractive. In the latter 
respect he is inferior to the other Japanese statesmen I have 
had occasion to meet, for instance : Ito, Yamahata, Kurino, 
Montono. 

Those were strenuous and painful days. An enormous 
responsibility rested upon me. I understood perfectly well 
that should I return home with empty hands, the military 
operations would be resumed, a new debacle would follow, 
and the whole of Russia would curse me for not having ob- 
tained peace. On the other hand, patriotism made my heart 
revolt against a peace imposed upon us by a victorious foe. 

It seems to me and the whole civilized world will up- 
hold my opinion that I did all it was possible to do under 
the circumsatnces by means of diplomacy; in fact, I achieved 
more than was expected of me. Nevertheless, it must not 
be forgotten that, after all, I represented the defeated side 
and that my situation had its inexorable logic, against which 
I could do nothing. 

The manner of the Japanese at the sessions was correct 
but cold. They often interrupted the proceedings to hold 
private consultations. In addition to three secretaries on 
each side, the Conference was attended by the plenipoten- 
tiaries alone, that is, myself, Baron Rosen, Komura and the 
Japanese Ambassador at Washington. Most of the talking 
was done by myself and Komura, the second plenipoten- 
tiaries but rarely taking part in the debates. My tone and 
manner were such that on one occasion Komura exclaimed : 
"You talk as if you represented the victor." To which I 
retorted: "There are no victors here, and, therefore, no 
defeated." 

It was my desire to have the assistant plenipotentiaries, 
too, attend the conferences, but Komura, for a reason un- 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 153 

known to me, resolutely opposed me. Some of the assist- 
ants attended no more than one session. The Japanese 
plenipotentiaries kept their assistants in the rooms adjacent 
to the conference hall, and Komura constantly kept in touch 
with one of them, an American, a former lawyer in Japan, 
who was attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. So- 
cially we Russians met the Japanese only in the course of 
the short luncheon. 

I carried out the instructions given to me by my Monarch 
fully and strictly. The cession of Southern Sakhalin was 
the only infringement upon the principle of no territorial 
cessions, but for that step His Majesty alone is respon- 
sible. It was a correct step, for otherwise we would have 
failed to obtain peace, but I would probably not have taken 
it on my own initiative. 

As for President Roosevelt, at first he tried to scare me 
into making considerable concessions by pointing out to me 
that otherwise the treaty would not be concluded. But he 
met with a firm determination on my part not to make any 
such concessions. At that time, there were two clashing 
parties within the body of the Tokio Government. One, 
headed by Ito, advocated the acceptance of my conditions; 
the other insisted on an indemnity and was ready to continue 
the war, should we fail to accede to that demand. Then 
Roosevelt, seeing that American public opinion was becom- 
ing favourable toward Russia and fearing that the unsuc- 
cessful end of the parley might turn the sympathies of the 
people away fronThim and from the Japanese, telegraphed 
to the Mikado, describing the trend of public opinion in 
America and advising him to accept my conditions. Ko- 
mura was instructed to yield, but as he personally was op- 
posed to this, he requested a personal instruction from the 
Mikado. Hence the confusion and delay which marked 
the end of the Conference. 

The course of the Conference may be indicated by quoting 



154 

the following interchanges of cablegrams and letters. On 
August 1 3th, I cabled the Foreign Minister at St. Peters- 
burg as follows: 

We have begun the discussion of the Japanese terms point by 
point. I think the Japanese are temporizing, either expecting some 
events to happen or for the purpose of making arrangements with 
Tokio, or perhaps London. We adhere to the opinon that they will 
not desist from their principal demands. It is my profound convic- 
tion that we must so conduct the negotiations as to win over to our 
side not only the Russian people but also the public opinion of Europe 
and America. Only in that case shall we be able to overcome the 
enemy with God's help, if we are destined to become engaged in a pro- 
longed war. If Europe and America cease rendering Japan material 
assistance and side morally with us, we shall come out victorious. 
Consequently, in conducting the negotiations three things are ab- 
solutely indispensable: i. We must so act as to be able, with clear 
conscience, to publish all the documents and submit the whole matter 
to the judgment of humanity, in case peace is not concluded ; 2. We 
must let Japan have all those gains which she has obtained owing to 
her good luck in this war and which do not injure either the dignity 
of Russia as a great Power or the feelings of the Russian heart; 3. 
We must be fair in our estimate of the situation, inasmuch as fair- 
ness is practicable in such cases. I am convinced that, no matter what 
the outcome of the negotiations is, in conducting them thus I shall 
serve my Monarch and my country as much as is within my powers, 
provided of course I have the necessary support. 

Four days later I cabled the Foreign Minister as follows : 

At present the situation is as follows: We have reached no agree- 
ment regarding the payment of indemnities, Sakhalin, the reduction 
of the navy, and ships in neutral waters. On Monday or Tuesday 
there will be the decisive session, after which, if neither side yields, 
we shall have to break off the negotiations. What the Japanese 
think is not known to anyone, I believe. They are an impene- 
trable wall even to their white friends. ... In view of the infinite 
importance of the matter, it is neccessary, it seems to me, to gauge 
the situation again and to take an immediate decision. I have not 
the slightest doubt but that a continuation of the war will be the 
greatest disaster for Russia. We can defend ourselves with more 
or less success, but we can hardly defeat Japan. 



155 

The Emperor's autographed remark on the margin of 
this telegram : "It was said not an inch of land, not a 
ruble of indemnities. On this I shall insist to the end." 

On August 2 ist, I cabled the Foreign Minister: 

... I believe that after the Conference, when the world learns 
what happened there, the peace-loving public opinion will recognize 
that Russia was right in refusing to pay a war indemnity, but it will 
not side with us on the subject of Sakhalin, for facts are stronger 
than arguments. As a matter of fact, Sakhalin is in the hands of 
the Japanese, and we have no means to recover it. Consequently, 
if we wish the failure of the Conference to be laid to Japan, we must 
not refuse to cede Sakhalin, after having also refused to indemnify 
Japan for her war expenditures. If it is our desire that in the future 
America and Europe side with us, we must take Roosevelt's opinion 
into consideration, in giving a final answer. 

The following day I received his reply, as follows: 

Unfortunately, it appears from your last telegrams that in spite 
of the readiness which you manifested in the conferences to come 
to an amicable agreement on each point, the Japanese plenipoten- 
tiaries continue to insist on peace terms, which, being incompatible 
with Russia's dignity, are altogether inacceptable. 

In view of this His Majesty has ordered you to cease further 
conferences with the Japanese delegates, if the latter are not em- 
powered to desist from the excessive demands which they are now 
making. 

. . . Thus the negotiations are being broken off because of the 
intractability of the Japanese as regards the question of indemni- 
ties; we must stop then and there. Under these conditions, the fur- 
ther discussion of the altogether inadmissible cession of Sakhalin be- 
comes unnecessary. . 

True, Sakhalin is at present occupied by the Japanese and we shall 
not soon be able to dislodge them from the island ; nevertheless, there 
is a great difference between a forceful occupation of this territory 
and a formal documental cession of this island which has a brilliant 
future. 

President Roosevelt used his influence with the Japa- 
nese delegates to restrain them from pressing their demand 



156 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

for an indemnity, as is witnessed by the two letters follow- 
ing, which came into my possession. [These letters as here 
reproduced are re-translated into English from the trans- 
lation into Russian as they appear in Count Witte's papers. 
THE EDITOR] : 

Oyster Bay, August 22, 1905. 
Dear Baron Kaneko: 

I deem it my duty to inform you that on every hand I hear doubts, 
expressed by Japan's friends, as to the possibility of her continuing 
the war for a large indemnity. One of the prominent members of 
the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, who absolutely sides 
with Japan, writes me : 

"It seems to me that Japan is hardly in a position to continue the 
war only for a large indemnity. I would not blame her, if she 
should break the negotiations for the purpose of occupying Saghalien. 
But if she will resume the military operations exclusively for the 
purpose of obtaining money, she will not obtain the money and be- 
sides she will soon lose the sympathies of this and other countries. 
I deem it my duty to say that I do not consider her demand for an 
indemnity just. She has occupied no Russian territory except Sag- 
halien, and the latter she still has to retain." 

Your Excellency should understand, I believe, that in America, 
among people who hitherto were well-disposed toward Japan, a very 
considerable majority would share the opinion expressed in the above 
cited lines. The consent to restore the North half of Saghalien gives 
Japan some hope of getting a certain amount of money in addition 
to the sums for the Russian war prisoners which are justly due to her, 
but I do not think she can demand or obtain anything like the sum 
which she set as indispensable, namely six hundred millions. You 
know how urgently I advised the Russians to conclude peace. With 
equal firmness I advise Japan not to continue the war for the sake 
of war indemnity. Should she do so, I believe that there will occur 
a considerable reversal of public opinion against her. I do not believe 
that this public opinion could have a tangible effect. Nevertheless, 
it must not be altogether neglected. Moreover, I do not think that the 
Japanese people could attain its aims if it continued the war solely 
because of the question of an indemnity. I think that Russia will 
refuse to pay and that the common opinion of the civilized world 
will support her in her refusal to pay the enormous sum which is 
being demanded or anything like that sum. Of course, if Russia 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 157 

pays that sum, there is nothing else for me to say. But should she 
refuse to pay, you will see that, having waged war for another year, 
even if you succeeded in occupying Eastern Siberia, you would spend 
four or five hundred more millions in addition to those expended, you 
would shed an enormous quantity of blood, and even if you obtained 
Eastern Siberia, you would get something which you do not need, and 
Russia would be completely unable to pay you anything. At any rate, 
she would not be in a position to pay you enough to cover the surplus 
expended by you. Of course, my judgment may be erroneous in this 
case, but it is my conviction expressed in good faith, from the stand- 
point of Japan's interests as I understand them. Besides, I consider 
that all the interests of civilization and humanity forbid the continua- 
tion of the war for the sake of a largeJndemnitv. 

This letter is, of~course, strictly confidential, but I will be glad if 
you wire it to your Government and I hope that you can do it. If 
the message is transmitted at all, it should be done immediately. 

Sincerely yours, 

(Signed) THEODORE ROOSEVELT. 

Oyster Bay, Aug. 23, 1905. 
Dear Baron Kaneko: 

In addition to what I wrote you yesterday, I wish to bring the 
following to the attention of the Ambassadors of His Majesty the 
Japanese Emperor: 

It seems to me that it is to the interests of the great Nipponese 
Empire to conclude peace for two reasons: 1st, its own interest; 
2nd, the interest of the whole world, toward which Japan has 
certain duties. You remember, I am not speaking of the continua- 
tion of the war for the purpose of keeping Saghalien, which would 
be right, but of the continuation of the war for the purpose of getting 
from Russia a large sum of money, which in my opinion would not be 
right. Of course, it is possible that you may get it, but I am con- 
vinced that you would have to pay too dear a price for that success. 
If you fail to obtain the money, no further humiliations and losses 
inflicted upon Russia would redeem your expenditures in blood and 
treasure. 

1. It is in Japan's interests now to end the war. She has acquired 
domination in Korea and Manchuria; she has doubled her own fleet 
by destroying the Russian fleet ; she has obtained Port Arthur, Tali- 
enwan, the Manchurian Railway; she has obtained Saghalien. There 
is no advantage for her in continuing the war for money, for the 



158 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

continuation of the war would absorb more money than Japan could 
in the end get from Russia. She will be wise if she will now put an 
end to the war with triumph and take her place as a leading member 
in the council of nations. 

2. From the ethical standpoint, it seems to me Japan has a certain 
obligation toward the world in the present crisis. The civilized 
world expects from her the conclusion of peace; peoples believe in 
her; let her manifest her superiority in the question of ethics, no less 
than in military affairs. An appeal is made to her in the name of all 
that is lofty and noble, and to this appeal, I hope, she will not remain 
deaf. 

With profound respect, 

Sincerely yours, 
'(Signed) THEODORE ROOSEVELT. 

On August 27th, I cabled the Foreign Minister: 

... In view of the fourteen-hour difference in time, he asked me 
to call the next session not to-morrow, but the day after to-morrow 
(Tuesday). I replied that I did not think I had the right to refuse 
his request, but I declared to him in a most categorical fashion that 
we would not in any case or under any circumstance renounce the 
decisions taken in accordance with His Majesty's latest instructions, 
that this was the last concession granted by His Majesty, and that any 
new proposal I would reject on the spot without submitting it to my 
Government. Consequently, I said, if they hoped that we would 
yield, they were wasting their breath and time and keeping the world 
in uncertainty. 

The Emperor wrote the following remark on the margin 
of this dispatch : 

Send Witte my order to end the parley to-morrow in any event. 
I prefer to continue the war, rather than to wait for gracious conces- 
sions on the part of Japan. 

Dated Peterhof, August 28, 1905. 

The following day I could say, in a message to the For- 
eign Minister: 

Before the beginning of to-day's session, at half past nine, Baron 
Komura wished to have a private conversation with me. In the 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 159 

course of it I said that, according to instruction I had received, 
to-day's session must be the last one and that the only thing left 
to them is either to accept or reject the final and irrevocable decision 
of our Emperor. I am almost certain that they will yield to His 
Majesty's will. 

And later in the day, I conveyed joyful news in the fol- 
lowing despatch : 

I have the honour to report to your Imperial Majesty that Japan 
has accepted our demands regarding peace conditions. Thus peace 
will be restored owing to your wise and firm decisions and in exact 
conformity with your Majesty's plans. Russia in the Far East will 
remain a Great Power, which she has been hitherto and which she 
will forever remain. In executing your orders we have exerted all 
the powers of our intelligence and Russian heart. Graciously forgive 
us for not having been able to achieve more. 

The peace treaty was signed September 5, 1905, at 3 
p. m. 

On the eve of the last day of the Conference I had been 
still in the dark as to whether the treaty would be signed 
by the Japanese. My sleep was obsessed with nightmares 
and interrupted by intervals of praying and weeping. My 
mind was a house divided against itself. I was aware that 
the conclusion of peace was imperative. Otherwise, I felt, 
we were threatened by a complete debacle, involving the 
overthrow of the dynasty, to which I was and am devoted 
with all my heart and soul. I knew I did not bear the 
slightest particle of guilt for this terrible war. On the con- 
trary, I did all I could to oppose it. Yet it fell to my lot to 
be instrumental in concluding this treaty, which, when all is 
said, was a heavy blow to our national amour-propre. I 
knew that all the responsibility for the treaty would be 
placed on me, for none of the members of the ruling clique, 
let alone Emperor Nicholas, would confess the crimes they 
had committed against their country and against God. Nat- 
urally, I could not help being greatly depressed. I do not 



160 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

wish my worst foe to go through the experiences which were 
mine during the last days of the Portsmouth Conference. 
To crown my miseries I was taken ill, but in spite of my 
illness I had to be constantly in the limelight and play the 
part of a conqueror. Only a few of my collaborators under- 
stood my state of mind. 

The signing of the treaty was announced by cannon-shots. 
Immediately the town bedecked itself with flags. Straight 
from the Conference I drove to one of the local churches, 
where I used to go in default of an Orthodox temple. All 
along our way throngs greeted us enthusiastically. Near 
the church and in the adjacent streets, the crowd was so 
dense that we had great difficulty in making our way 
through it. Many tried to shake hands with us, the usual 
expression of attention with Americans. 

Having worked our way into the church, we found it so 
crowded that we had to place ourselves behind the grate 
of the raised platform on which the service is performed. 
We beheld a wonderful spectacle: ministers of various 
creeds and faiths, including our Orthodox priest from New 
York and several rabbis, had formed a solemn procession 
and were moving across the church toward the altar, headed 
by a choir which was chanting a peace hymn. The proces- 
sion reached the raised platform and then the Russian priest 
and the Protestant minister offered short thanksgiving pray- 
ers. During the service the Bishop of New York came to 
join the other clergymen, straight from the railway station. 
He and the Russian priest delivered short sermons. Then 
the clergy with the several choirs present sang a church 
hymn, while many of the people wept. Never did I pray 
with more fire than at that moment. The celebration effected 
that unity of all the Christian churches and of all Christians, 
which is the dream of all the truly enlightened followers of 
Christ. We were all welded by the heat of our enthusi- 
asm for the great principle: "Thou shalt not kill!" See- 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 161 

ing American men and women thank God with tears in their 
eyes for the peace He had granted to Russia, I asked myself 
how it concerned them. The answer was: "Are we not all 
Christians?" When the service was over, the choirs started 
singing, "God, save the Czar." To the sounds of that hymn 
we left the church. As I moved slowly through the crowd, 
many tried, apparently in accordance with a local custom, 
to force various presents into my pockets. When I reached 
the hotel, I found in my pockets some very valuable gifts, 
in addition to a great many trinkets of no worth. 

I acquitted myself of my task with complete success and 
I was extolled and praised up to the skies, so that in the 
end Emperor Nicholas was morally compelled to reward me 
in an altogether exceptional manner by bestowing upon me 
the rank of Count. This he did in spite of his and, espe- 
cially, Her Majesty's personal dislike for me, and also in 
spite of all the base intrigues conducted against me by a 
host of bureaucrats and courtiers, whose vileness was only 
equalled by their stupidity. ~ 

Several circumstances combined to enable me to achieve 
a peace which the whole world proclaimed to be the first 
Russian victory after more than a year of uninterrupted 
disgraceful defeats. In the first place, while I was in the 
United States my behaviour awakened in the Americans the 
consciousness of the fact that we Russians, by race, culture, 
and religion, were akin to them, and that we had come to 
their country to go to law with a race alien to them in everyl 
essential respect. Furthermore, the American people dis- 
covered that, although the personal representative of the 
autocrat of all the Russias and a high dignitary, I was much 
like their own public leaders and statesmen. The favourable 
impression was enhanced by the fact that all the other mem- 
bers of our group caught that general democratic attitude 
from me. I have already had the occasion to explain how 
I treated the American press and how it stood me in good 



or to the American people generally that the excessive 
growth of Japan's strength was not exactly to the best in- 



162 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

stead. I also had the support of the American Jews, for 
they knew both from my past career and from their con- 
ferences with me in the course of my stay in the United 
States these conferences are described below that I 
was one of the rare Russian statesmen who in recent years 
have advocated a humane treatment of Russian Jewry. I 
have already mentioned the fact that President Roosevelt's 
sympathies were with the Japanese. To enhance his own 
popularity and to gratify his self-love as the initiator of 
the Conference, he wanted peace, but a peace advantageous 
for the Japanese. It did not occur either to the President 

\j 

terests of America. I should like to observe in this con- 
nection that, upon getting acquainted with President Roose- 
velt and other American statesmen, I was struck by their 
ignorance of international politics, generally, and European 
political matters, in particular. I heard the most naive, to 
use a mild term, judgments regarding European politics 
from some of the most prominent American statesmen and 
public leaders. Here is one gem: "There is no room in 
Europe for Turkey, because it is a Moslem country, and it 
does not matter who gets its European possessions." And 
another: "Why not restore a strong, independent Poland? 
This would be both just and natural." 

Upon the whole, the international situation favoured the 
successful outcome of the Portsmouth Conference. With 
a view to her own immediate interests, France was very 
anxious that we, her ally, should make peace with Japan. 
It is true that Great Britain wished a peace more or less 
favourable to Japan. This, the English hoped, would teach 
Russia a lesson and be of service to them when it came to 
regulating certain moot points of the Anglo-Russian rela- 
tions. On the other hand, however, the English perceived 
that the excessive growth of Japan was fraught with dan- 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 163 

gers in the future and therefore undesirable. At that very 
time, it happened, the term of the Anglo-Japanese treaty 
elapsed. Negotiations for the renewal of the treaty were 
begun in London, and it was decided that the final formula- 
tion of the pact would depend upon the outcome of the Ports- 
mouth Conference. I called the attention of Count Lams- 
dorff, our Minister of Foreign Affairs, to that circumstance, 
but we were unable to find out why the London parley had 
been linked with our Conference. The financial circles also 
favoured the termination of hostilities, for the reason that 
the Russo-Japanese war greatly upset Europe's finances. 
The Christian churches were on our side, for they regarded 
the Japanese as heathens, although it should be stated in 
all fairness that these heathens were sustained by an all- 
powerful faith in God and an unshakable belief in immortal 
life. Finally, the successful termination of the Portsmouth 
parley was also to the best interests of Emperor William 
of Germany. 

At Portsmouth I received, among other deputations, a 
group of representatives from American Jews. The depu- 
tation included Jacob Schiff and Seligman, two great bank- 
ers, and Oscar Straus, who has in recent years served as 
American Ambassador to Constantinople. Two years ago 
this diplomat conceived a desire to visit Russia. In spite 
of his high station and the universal respect he enjoys in 
America he was forced to enter into protracted negotiations 
with the Russian police and it was only under special surveil- 
lance and for a strictly limited period of time that he was 
allowed to come to Russia. I recorded in detail my con- 
versation with the Jewish delegates in a number of official 
dispatches which I sent to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, 
and I shall state here merely the substance of the talk. I 
received them very cordially and listened with attention to 
what they had to say. The spokesman of the deputation 
called my attention to the exceedingly painful situation of 



1 64 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

the Jews in Russia and to the necessity of putting a stop to 
the present deplorable state of affairs by granting them full 
rights. I pointed out that the horrors of the Jewish situation 
in Russia had been presented to the world in a somewhat 
exaggerated light, but I did not deny that the Jews in Russia 
were in a very difficult position. Nevertheless, I argued, 
an immediate and complete removal of their legal disabili- 
ties would, in my opinion, do them more harm than good. 
To this remark Jacob Schiff made a sharp retort, which 
was, however, toned down by the more balanced judgments 
of the other members of the deputation, especially Dr. 
Straus, who made an excellent impression on me. 

Among the many visitors I received at Portsmouth was 
Jeremiah Curtin, an American Russophile, whom I had 
known since my boyhood. He was a friend of my uncle, 
General Fadeyev, and frequented our family whenever he 
came to Tiflis (Caucasus). Later I met him in St. Peters- 
burg, where he served in the American Embassy as a secre- 
tary, and where he frequently came for long stays, after he 
had given up his diplomatic career. An intimate friend of 
the famous Procurator of the Holy Synod, Pobiedonostzev, 
he was deeply interested in our Orthodox faith. He mast- 
ered the Russian language and wrote a good deal about our 
country which he sincerely loved. At Portsmouth he made 
every effort to promote our cause. I saw him twice during 
my stay in America : the old man looked still hale and 
hearty, but several months after my departure from his 
country I received the news of his death. 

Upon the signing of the treaty, our mission left Ports- 
mouth. Some members of the group took trains for the 
interior of the country, anxious to catch a glimpse of Amer- 
ica, and, particularly, to visit Niagara Falls. Baron Rosen 
and I returned straight to New York. The baron had pre- 
viously insisted that at the end of the Conference I should 
undertake a tour of the chief cities of the United States in 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 165 

order to strengthen the sympathy between the United 
States and Russia, for which I had laid a foundation. The 
American Government, too, regarded this plan with favour. 
I communicated about this matter with Count Lamsdorff, 
pointing out to him the political significance of the tour. 
I received a rather evasive reply. On the one hand, His 
Majesty granted me his permission to undertake the tour 
and even seemed to be anxious to see the plan carried into 
effect; on the other hand, certain conditions were imposed 
which made me believe that the project was looked at 
askance in St. Petersburg. As I am not accustomed to such 
replies, and as, besides, by temperament I am literally un- 
able to bear such treatment, I made no bones about wiring 
back to Count Lamsdorff that I did not wish to undertake 
the tour. Knowing, as I did, the atmosphere which sur- 
rounded His Majesty, I immediately grasped the situation. 
The reception which I was given in America was, of course, 
well known in St. Petersburg and disturbed many a cour- 
tier's sleep. Naturally, intriguing began. It was, no doubt, 
insinuated within His Majesty's hearing that I was aiming 
at becoming the president of the Russian Republic. "Look 
how easily he wins the sympathy of the masses," some of 
my well wishers probably told His Majesty. "He must not 
be allowed to increase his popularity." The Emperor him- 
self on one occasion had been heard to say: "Witte is a 
hypnotist. No sooner does he open his mouth in the Im- 
perial Council or any other meeting than he gains the sup- 
port of his very enemies." The plotters also tried to spoil 
my relations with Count Lamsdorff by insinuating that I 
was seeking to eclipse and finally supplant him, but they 
could not prevail against our true friendship and the count's 
noble-heartedness. 

Upon my arrival in New York, Baron Rosen and I went 
to pay a farewell visit to President Roosevelt at Oyster Bay. 
We dined with the President in his family circle, as during 




our first visit, and I conversed a great deal with our host 
both before and after the dinner. I had a pleasant surprise 
in store for him. Previous to the outbreak of the Russo- 
Japanese war the United States imposed a differential duty 
on imports of our sugar. We protested against this meas- 
ure, which was not in agreement, we thought, with the posi- 
tion of Russia as a most favoured country, but in vain. At 
that time I held the office of Minister of Finances. We 
retaliated by establishing differential duties on several 
American imports, which step naturally displeased the 
United States. Before I left for America I obtained His 
Majesty's permission to inform the United States Govern- 
ment that these differential duties were abolished. Before 
and during the Conference I did not deem it advisable to 
make use of this permission, for I did not want to create 
the impression that we curried Tavour with America. The 
signing of the treaty set my hands free, and I took advan- 
~~^tage of my last visit to Oyster Bay to break the news to the 
President. He was visibly pleased. The next day the story 
of the abolition of the duties was published in all the papers 
\ and made an excellent impression. 

I have already had occasion to refer to the fact that 
throughout the Conference my relations with President 
Roosevelt were not particularly harmonious or cordial. 
Finding me intractable, he finally refused to deal with me 
and began to communicate directly with Emperor Nicholas. 
For this reason some of the points of the controversy were 
settled by His Majesty in person. I feel it to be my duty 
to state here that none of my Monarch's decisions were 
essentially at variance with my own policy, although I would 
not perhaps have been resolute enough to make the con- 
cessions which His Majesty made. However, this is only 
natural, for I am but one of our sovereign's servants, while 
he is the autocratic monarch of the Russian Empire, respon- 
sible for his deeds to God alone. 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 167 

Throughout our conversation, especially before the din- 
ner, President Roosevelt was visibly at pains to smoothe 
away the impression of unpleasantness which had marked 
our official relations. He assured me that he used his in- 
fluence on the Japanese in our favour. To corroborate his 
statement, he showed me his telegram to the Mikado, which 
I mentioned above. Generally speaking, the conversation 
was conducted in a very amiable tone. Toward the end of 
the visit, 1 asked the President to give me his autographed 
photograph, which he agreed to do with evident pleasure. 
We took leave of our host and his family, and in the even- 
ing returned to New York. The photograph was forwarded 
to me at my hotel in New York the following day, accom- 
panied by a letter, which read [Re-translation from Rus- 
sian version] : 

Oyster Bay, Sept. 10, 1905. 
Dear Mr. Witte: 

I beg you to accept the enclosed photograph, together with my 
hearty greetings. 

I thank you sincerely for His Majesty's message, which was trans- 
mitted to me, informing me of his noble-hearted intention henceforth 
to interpret the article about the most favoured nation in such a 
manner as to put America on an equal footing with the other Powers. 

Please convey to His Majesty my sincere gratitude for this act. 

In the course of our conversation, which took place last evening, 
I urged you to give your attention to the questions of issuing pass- 
ports to respectable American citizens of the Jewish faith. It seems 
to me that if that could be done, there would be eliminated the last 
cause of irritation between the two peoples, for the perpetuation of 
whose historical mutual friendship I should like to do everything in 
my power. You can always refuse to issue a passport to some Amer- 
ican citizen, Jew or Gentile, if you are not quite certain that the 
issuance of the passport will not harm Russia. But if your Gov- 
ernment found a way to permit respectable American citizens of the 
Jewish faith, whose intentions you do not distrust, to enter Russia, 
just as you permit it to respectable Americans of Christian faith, this 
would be, it seems to me, in every respect fortunate. 



1 68 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Assuring you again of my profound respect and renewing my fe- 
licitations to you and your country on the conclusion of peace, I beg 
you to believe me, 

Sincerely yours, 
(Signed) THEODORE ROOSEVELT. 

Mr. Sergius Witte, 

Hotel St. Regis, New York. 

The remaining few days of my stay in the United States 
I spent very pleasantly. Immediately upon the termination 
of the Conference I divested myself of the title of plenipo- 
tentiary and ambassador extraordinary and became a plain 
citizen. As such I took a more modest suite of rooms at the 
hotel, paying only 82 rubles a day for it, instead of 380 
rubles as formerly. Life is very expensive in America. For 
instance, you cannot give the elevator-boy a tip less than a 
dollar (two rubles in terms of our money), so. that at the 
large hotels small coin does not exist, as it were. Natu- 
rally, I had to lay out quite a few thousand rubles from my 
own pocket, in addition to the twenty thousand rubles which 
was my allowance for the trip to the United States. 

Wherever I went in New York I was met with much 
enthusiasm and much pomp. For instance, when I appeared 
in the Stock Exchange, to honour me all business was 
stopped for ten minutes. Among other institutions, I vis- 
ited the military academy (West Point) which supplies the 
American army with officers. The school is situated on the 
Hudson River, at the distance of some three hours from 
New York City, and is luxuriously equipped. I was re- 
ceived there with great pomp, and the cadets, all full-grown 
men in smart uniforms, were reviewed for my benefit. I 
was not the only one visiting the academy that day. It 
happened, as a matter of chance, that the Japanese army 
officers attached to Komura had also come there to see the 
school. I noticed that they were very unhappy, for the 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 169 

reason that no one paid any attention to them. Having 
taken notice of their awkward predicament, I approached 
them, greeted them and asked them to join me. They 
thanked me and kept close to me all the while, forming a 
part of my retinue, as it were. The parade was very beau- 
tiful, and at one time the cadets marched to the strains of 
"God Save the Czar." When the sounds of that wonder- 
ful hymn burst forth, I bared my head and so did all those 
present. 

I came to West Point on board J. P. Morgan's yacht. I 
met that famous banker and industrial king several times 
during my stay in the United States. A man of fabulous 
wealth, he is the most influential financier in America. Mor- 
gan has a palace in New York City, but he practically lives 
on board his yacht. In that craft he crosses the ocean, 
cruises in the Mediterranean, etc. He believes, not with- 
out reason, that life on the sea is the healthiest mode of 
living and accordingly he tries to spend most of his time 
at sea. During my stay in the United States I ate only one 
decent luncheon and dinner, and that was on board Mor- 
gan's yacht, on the day of my visit to West Point. At the 
hotel we paid fabulous sums for our dinner (30 to 40 rubles 
per plate), and yet the food was exceedingly bad. 

The purpose of my visits to Morgan was to induce him 
to take part in the foreign loan which we were preparing 
to conclude for the purpose of liquidating the war. He 
showed himleTTopen t6~mducement and, in fact, offered me 
his services himself, insisting that I should not enter into 
any negotiations with the Jewish group of bankers headed 
by Jacob Schiff. I relied upon his promise of assistance 
and did not attempt to interest the Jewish bankers in the 
loan. I have described elsewhere under what circumstance 
the loan was concluded, how the German bankers were 
prohibited by Emperor William from participating in it, 
and how the group of banking firms headed by Morgan also 



170 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

backed out, probably under the pressure of the German 
Government. 

Morgan is afflicted with a nose disease which greatly 
disfigures him. He has on his nose a large growth resemb- 
ling a beet. Before leaving his yacht, I took advantage of 
a moment when we were left alone and said to him: 

"Let me thank you for your hospitality and volunteer 1 
a little service. The celebrated Professor Lassar of Berlin 
is a good friend of mine. I was under his treatment for a 
skin disease of which I suffered and I saw at his clinic a 
number of patients with morbid nose formations such as 
yours. He removed these growths surgically and restored 
the noses of his patients to their normal state." 

My host thanked me and said that he had heard about 
that operation and even knew the professor I mentioned, 
but that he was not in a position to be operated upon. I 
thought that the banker was afraid, but I was mistaken. 

"No," he said, "I am not a bit afraid. I know how skil- 
ful that surgeon is, and I do not doubt the result. But, my 
dear sir, how shall I show myself in America after the 
operation? Do you know that I would never be able to 
return to these states?" 

I was puzzled. 

"Don't you see?" he went on. "If I come to New York 
with my nose cured, every street boy will point at me and 
split his sides laughing. Everybody knows my nose and it 
would be impossible for me to appear on the streets of New 
York without it." 

All this was said in a serious tone. The banker, it was 
apparent, sincerely regretted that he was not in a position 
to get rid of his beet. 

Upon my return to New York from Portsmouth, Colum- 
bia University in the city of New York bestowed upon me 
the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. I spent a whole 
morning at that institution of higher learning, examining 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 171 

the buildings and talking to the professors. They received 
me very cordially, and I was greatly flattered by their atten- 
tion. Externally, Columbia University is richer than Har- 
vard. I also caught a glimpse of the student body, for the 
university was already open. I was greatly impressed by 
the importance attributed in America to physical education. 
Columbia University includes a large building entirely de- 
voted to gymnastics and games. 

While examining the economics division of the Columbia 
library, I remember, I asked the professor of political econ- 
omy whether he expounded to his students Henry George's 
single tax doctrine. He assured me that Henry George was 
studied in his classes very carefully. "In the first place," 
he said, "Henry George is one of our most gifted writers. 
Besides, I consider it useful to acquaint my students with his 
views on the land problem, for the purpose of exposing its 
fallaciousness." Many of our home-spun economists and 
also our great writer but naive thinker, Leo Tolstoy, would 
do well to go to school to that American teacher. 

I was also curious to know whether student riots and dis- 
turbances, such as are customary in Russia, were possible 
in the American universities. The idea apparently never 
occurred to the professors. Should any student attempt, 
they said, to devote himself at the university to other activi- 
ties than study, he would be immediately cast out of the 
school by his own comrades. 

I took a trip to the city of Washington, which is the 
official capital of the United States. There I visited the 
President's White House, the Senate, the Congress and the 
Congressional Library. In the vicinity of that city there 
is the house where the great Washington, the maker, so to 
speak, of the present United States of America, lived and 
died. It is situated on the banks of a river. The ships sail- 
ing by salute it and the passers-by take off their hats to it. 
It may be said that the Americans revere this building like 



172 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

a sacred relic. They surely know how to honour their great 
men. Visitors to George Washington's house and little 
farm are usually shown the spot where he and his wife are 
buried. One can also see the room where the great man 
died and the apartment occupied by the French General 
Lafayette, who helped build up the new-born republic. 
Near the house there is a special enclosure for trees, each 
planted by a prominent visitor. I, too, was asked to plant 
a tree there. I do not know what has become of it. 

It happened that I arrived in the capital on Sunday, 
when Washington's house is not open to visitors. As I was 
anxious to return to New York on the same day, I asked 
President Roosevelt to allow me to visit the house as a 
special favour. I was told that all the historical monuments 
and buildings in the United States were in the custody of a 
special Women's Society. This organization has large 
means and bears all the expenses incident to the maintenance 
of the monuments. The society is so independent, I was 
told, that even though President Roosevelt should appeal 
to its president in person, she might refuse to grant his 
request. I was, therefore, advised to appeal to her directly 
for permission to visit the house. I wired to the lady and 
received a very courteous reply, giving me the freedom of 
Washington's house. I went there on board a government 
steamer, and representatives of the Society acted as my 
guides. 

While sightseeing in New York I was struck by the 
appearance of the sky-scrapers. I even ventured to go up 
in an elevator to the top of one such monster, thirty-seven 
stories high. There was a light breeze blowing and I could 
feel the top room swaying. 

Some of the peculiar features of American life greatly 
amazed me. Thus, for instance, I could not for a long time 
get accustomed to the idea that most of the waiters in the 
hotels and restaurants which I visited were university stu- 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 173 

dents. Attracted by the high wages, they often amount 
to as much as a hundred dollars a month, the students 
cheerfully enter the service of hotels and restaurants and 
earn enough during the summer months to keep them afloat 
during the winter. These students did not seem to be 
ashamed of the menial duties of their occupation. They 
wore the waiters' outfit, served the guests and removed the 
dishes from the tables, all without the slightest embarrass- 
ment; but, once the meal was over, they would change their 
clothes, sometimes put on their fraternity insignia, court 
the girls who stayed at the hotel, walk with them in the 
park, play tennis, etc. Then when meal time came, they 
would again put on their regulation outfit and be metamor- 
phosed into waiters. This is altogether impossible in Rus- 
sia. Our students would live on ten or twenty rubles a 
month or even starve, rather than demean themselves by 
doing the work of a servant. This probably holds true of 
other European countries. 

I was also shocked to see girls of good families, who 
stayed at our hotel, promenading in the dark in the com- 
pany of young men. A girl and a youth, tete-a-tete, would 
walk away into the forest, the park, and stroll there for 
hours alone or else they would take out a boat and row on 
the lake, and no one would find that reprehensible. During 
our stay at Portsmouth, some of the members of the mission, 
including myself, were often with two charming young girls 
who lived with their mothers in the neighbourhood of our 
hotel. We would have tea with them, and the young folk 
stayed in the house far into the night. I noticed that no 
one considered their behaviour either unusual or improper. 
At Portsmouth, for purposes of recreation, I often spent an 
hour or so on the open beach, watching the surf. At Biar- 
ritz in Europe the ocean is impressive enough, but it lacks 
the grandiose quality and the magnificence with which it is 
invested at the American shores. 



174 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

I was surprised to see the attitude of the American public 
to the secret service. One day I was riding in an automobile 
in New York, accompanied by one of the secret service 
agents who were attached to my person. We reached a 
congested thoroughfare where ordinary mortals usually 
wait quite some time before they can proceed on their way. 
The agent showed his badge to the traffic policeman, the 
latter waved his hand, the stream of traffic stopped as if 
by magic, and we drove on. I imagine the storm of indig- 
nation which such an action of the police would raise in 
Russia, in monarchist Russia. 

Before I left the United States, President Roosevelt 
handed me a letter with a request to transmit it to Emperor 
Nicholas. The missive began by referring to the gratitude 
His Majesty had previously expressed to the President for 
his assistance in bringing about the peace. Now, the author 
of the letter went on, he was asking a favour of His 
Majesty. The commercial treaty of 1832 between the 
United States and Russia, the President said, was inter- 
preted by the Americans as providing for the free entrance 
of all United States citizens into Russian territory, it being 
understood that limitations of that right were to originate 
exclusively from the necessity on Russia's part to protect 
herself from harm, material and otherwise. As a matter of 
fact, however, the Russians seemed to interpret the treaty in 
a different spirit. In recent years, the President pointed out, 
it had become the practice of the Russian Government to 
discriminate against the American citizens on the basis of 
religion and refuse admittance to Jews of American alle- 
giance. To this discrimination, President Roosevelt emphati- 
cally asserted, Americans would never consent. Therefore, 
the letter concluded, to continue the friendly relations which 
had been inaugurated by my visit to the United States, it 
was necessary for the Russian Government to give up the 
reprehensible practice of excluding the American citizens of 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 175 

Jewish faith from Russia. This letter I transmitted to His 
Majesty and in due course it reached the Minister of the 
Interior. In my premiership a special commission was 
appointed to study the matter. The commission after long 
deliberations recommended to give up the interpretation of 
the treaty clause which offended the Americans, but this 
recommendation led to no practical consequences. In the 
end the United States Government abrogated the treaty, 
and we lost the friendship of the American people. 

I made my return trip to Europe on board a German 
steamer which was even faster and more luxuriously 
equipped than the one which took me to the United States. 
The people of New York gave me a hearty farewell, and 
on the steamer the passengers treated me with much kind- 
ness and deference. In the first military port which we 
entered a military salute was fired in our honour. 

The following is the text of the letter in which Czar 
Nicholas informed me of his decision to honour me with 
the title of Count and expressed his appreciation of my 
services in successfully concluding an honourable treaty of 
peace : 



October 8, 1905. 
Count Sergey Yulyevich: 

In my constant solicitude for Russia's peaceful prosperity, I agreed 
to accept the amicable proposal of the President of the North- 
American United States for a meeting of Russian and Japanese 
plenipotentiaries for the purpose of determining the possibility of 
putting an end to the miseries and horrors of a protracted war, 
which has already involved so many sacrifices on both sides. My 
confidence has imposed upon you the mission of going to the United 
States as my first plenipotentiary and of entering into negotiations 
should Japan's terms prove admissible, for the purpose of concluding 
peace on the basis of principles which I had elaborated with precision. 

Both in the detailed discussion of the preliminary terms and in the 
final drafting of the peace treaty you acquitted yourself brilliantly of 
the task confided to your charge. You acted firmly and with the 



176 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

dignity which befits a representative of Russia, and thus you have 
obtained just concessions, having demonstrated the inadmissibility 
of terms which could offend the patriotic consciousness of the 
Russian people or injure the vital interests of our country. Having 
duly acknowledged the consequences of the successes achieved by our 
opponent, you have, nevertheless, declined, according to my instruc- 
tions, to pay, in one form or another, the expenses for the conduct of 
the war, which was not begun by Russia, and you have only agreed 
to return to Japan the Southern part of Sakhalin, which belonged to 
her prior to 1875. Thus, the task of restoring peace in the Far 
East has been successfully accomplished for the common good. 

Highly valuing the skill and statesmanlike experience manifested 
by you, I herewith bestow upon you the rank of count of the Russian 
Empire, as a recompense for your high and great service to the 
country. 

I remain unalterably well-disposed to you and sincerely thankful, 

(Signed) NICHOLAS. 

At one point in my negotiations with the Japanese for 
peace I became aware that we could obtain better terms if 
the peace treaty were complemented with a treaty of alliance 
with Japan. Very cautiously I alluded to the matter and 
received an evasive answer from Komura. It was clear, 
however, that the Japanese were not averse to a partial 
alliance with us. I telegraphed to Count Lamsdorff that,' 
in my opinion, the negotiations should be conducted with a 
view to a Russo-Japanese alliance. As the Minister's reply 
was evasive and rather hostile to my suggestion, I dropped 
the matter. And so, when the parley was over, we parted 
from the Japanese not as friends determined to support 
each other, but as enemies who had agreed to suspend the 
struggle for an indefinite period of time. 

On returning to Russia I perceived why my suggestion 
had not been welcomed by the Government. As a matter 
of fact, in those days the idea of revanche prevailed among 
a considerable number of influential people, mostly specu- 
lators enriched by the war. It was preached by such power- 
ful organs of the press as Novoye Fremya and favoured by 



THE PEACE OF PORTSMOUTH 177 

the highest court circles, including the Emperor. One of 
the chief agencies of the revanche movement was the Com- 
mittee on State Defence, presided over by Grand Duke 
Nikolai Nikolaievich. It actually took under consideration 
a number of measures aiming at the realization of the 
revanche dream. 

Premier Stolypin was, of course, with the militarists. 
He conceived the plan of building the Amur Railroad, so 
that we might have a railway which, running within Russian 
territory, would be secure from seizure by the Japanese. 
The project was laid before the Duma and was welcomed 
by the notorious Defence Committee headed by Guchkov. 
In order to impress the Duma with the necessity of the 
road, it was told that war with Japan was imminent and 
that it would indeed break out not later than 1911 or 1912, 
at the latest. And so the Duma authorized the construction 
of this line, which will constitute a heavy financial burden 
on the Russian people and which will in the end bring 
nothing but harm. Under the influence of the same argu- 
ment the Imperial Council, too, gave its consent. I vigor- 
ously opposed the project, pointing out that in the event of 
war the new road would not be any safer from seizure by 
the Japanese than the Eastern-Chinese Railway. Besides, 
I argued, the railway would increase the influence of the 
Chinese in the Amur province to a dangerous extent. 
Above all, I insisted, the new line meant the expenditure 
of huge sums which could be spent, with better results, on 
defending our Far-Eastern possessions and the existing 
Eastern-Chinese Railroad. But my arguments were in 
vain. 

The international situation was considerably affected by 
the Russo-Japanese War. For several decades previous to 
the war the relations between France and Great Britain 
were rather strained, this being due to rivalry in African 
and Asian colonial regions adjacent to the Mediterranean. 



178 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

After the Franco-Prussian war England almost wholly 
supplanted France in Egypt and snatched, as it were, the 
Suez Canal from her hands. Then Great Britain became 
France's rival in those regions of Northern Africa which 
were either within the French sphere of influence or gravi- 
tated toward French colonial possessions. Several years 
before the war a certain Colonel Marchand hoisted the 
French flag in a territory in Northern Africa, which he had 
explored. Great Britain in a rather unceremonious form 
forced France to give up the claim to that territory. The 
incident produced a great stir in France, and the Govern- 
ment appealed to Russia for support. We advised France 
not to bring the matter to a break, and she yielded. There- 
upon Foreign Minister Delcasse came to St. Petersburg to 
devise a means whereby England might be held in check. 
He urged us to hasten the construction of the Orenburg- 
Tashkent Railway, which would enable us to threaten India 
in case of emergency. To this we agreed, and France in 
return obligated itself to assist us in floating a loan. With 
the progress of the Russo-Japanese War Delcasse perceived 
that France could not rely on Russia and that, under the 
circumstances, it was no longer safe to have strained rela- 
tions with both Germany and England. As a result, Del- 
casse inaugurated a rapprochement with Great Britain. 
With Russia's knowledge he concluded a treaty with Great 
Britain, which regulated the relations of the two countries 
in those regions where their interests clashed. Ever since 
then France has been cultivating England's friendship. 



CHAPTER VII 

NICHOLAS II AND ALEXANDRA 

WHEN, in 1894, I learned of the death of Emperor 
Alexander III, I went to share my grief with I. N. Dur- 
novo. In those days he was Minister of the Interior, while 
I held the office of Minister of Finances. Both of us had 
been greatly attached to the deceased monarch, and, nat- 
urally, we were in a very dejected mood. In the course of 
our talk Durnovo asked me what I thought of our new 
ruler, Nicholas II. 

My reply was to the effect that I had but rarely discussed 
business matters with him, that I knew him to be inexperi- 
enced in the extreme, but rather intelligent, and that he had 
always impressed me as a kindly and well-bred youth. As 
a matter of fact, I had rarely come across a better-mannered 
young man than Nicholas II. His good-breeding conceals 
all his shortcomings. I hoped, I added, that our young 
monarch would learn his business, and in that event, the 
Ship of State would float on safely. 

Durnovo looked at me slyly and said: "Well, Sergey, 
I am afraid you are mistaken about our young Emperor. 
I know him better, and let me tell you that his reign has 
many misfortunes in store for us. Mark my words: 
Nicholas II will prove a modernized version of Paul I." 

I suspect that Durnovo owed his fine knowledge of the 
Emperor's character not so much to his perspicacity, but 
to the fact that perlustration of letters is one of the tasks 
with which the Minister of the Interior is entrusted. It 
appears that Durnovo perlustrated with great diligence. 

179 



i8o THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

He told me himself, with candour, that he had surrendered 
the portfolio of Minister of the Interior, for the reason 
that the Dowager Empress protested to her son against 
Durnovo reading her private correspondence. Such being 
the attitude of the Empress, he explained, he could not 
remain in office. 

About the same time I also had a talk with the celebrated 
Procurator of the Holy Synod, Pobiedonostzev. He was 
deeply grieved by Alexander's death. As for Nicholas, he 
spoke of him in vague terms, although he was one of his 
preceptors. What he feared most was that, owing to his 
youth and lack of experience, the Emperor might fall a 
prey to evil influences. 

At my first audience, Emperor Nicholas treated me very 
cordially. I had enjoyed his favour ever since my participa- 
tion in the Siberian Railway Committee, over which young 
Prince Nicholas had presided. The subject we discussed 
during that first official conference was the construction of 
a naval base for our Northern Fleet. That was one of the 
tasks bequeathed to the young Emperor by his deceased 
father. Largely owing to my influence, Alexander III had 
chosen the Yekaterina Harbour on the Murman Coast for 
that purpose, in preference to Libau. His Majesty de- 
clared to me that he was going to carry out his late father's 
will and would immediately decree the construction of the 
Murman base. 

Two or three months passed, and suddenly I found in 
the Governmental Messenger an Imperial decree order- 
ing the construction of the naval base at Libau, to be called 
Port of Emperor Alexander III, in consideration of the 
fact that this was the late Emperor's wish. I was taken 
completely by surprise, for several months before his death 
Alexander III expressly stated his preference for the Mur- 
man base. 

Shortly afterwards I learned that immediately upon the 



NICHOLAS II AND ALEXANDRA 181 

publication of the decree His Majesty went to Grand Duke 
Konstantin and, with tears in his eyes, complained that 
Admiral General Grand Duke Alexey had forced him to 
sign a decree which was contrary to his own views and to 
the view of his late father. 

The man who was chief advocate of the idea of con- 
structing the naval base at Libau was not, however, Grand 
Duke Alexey, but N. M. Chikhachev, the Minister of the 
Navy. . It is he who was chiefly responsible for the Grand 
Duke's insistence on Libau, and the Emperor knew it. So 
that while he yielded to the external pressure he, never- 
theless, harboured a secret grudge for the person who was 
the source of that influence. Hardly a year passed before 
Chikhachev was dismissed. It was clearly an act of re- 
venge. 

Unhappily, the behaviour of Nicholas II in this instance 
is only too characteristic of His Majesty, and, as Prince 
Mirski has remarked, his character is the source of all our 
misfortunes. A ruler who cannot be trusted, who approves 
to-dayjwhat he will reject to-morrow, is incapajile of steer- 
ing the Ship of State into a quiet harbour. His outstanding 
failing is his lamentable lack of will power. Though benev- 
olent and not unintelligent, this shortcoming disqualifies him 
totally as the unlimited autocratic ruler of the Russian 
people. Poor, unhappy Emperor ! He was not born for 
the momentous historical role which fate has thrust upon 
him. 

The coronation of Emperor Nicholas II, which took 
place on May 14 (Russian style), 1896, was marked ^by^ 
sad and ominous occurrence; nearly two thousand people 
perished on the Khodynka Field, in Moscow, where re- 
freshments and amusements had been prepared for the 
populace. A few hours after the Khodynka disaster their 
Majesties attended a concert conducted by the celebrated 
Safonov. I vividly recollect a brief conversation which 




182 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

I had at that concert with the Chinese plenipotentiary Li 
Hung Chang, who was at that time in St. Petersburg on 
official business. He was curious to know the details of 
the catastrophe and I told him that nearly two thousand 
people must have perished. 

"But His Majesty," he said, "does not know it, does he?" 

"Of course, he knows," I replied. "All the facts of the 
matter must have already been reported to him." 

"Well," remarked the Chinaman, "I don't see the wis- 
dom of that. I remember when I was Governor-General, 
ten million people died from the bubonic plague in the prov- 
inces confined to my charge, yet our Emperor knew nothing 
about it. Why disturb him uselessly?" 

I thought to myself that, after all, we were ahead of the 
Chinese. 

A gorgeous evening party was scheduled for the same 
day, to be given by the French Ambassador, Marquis de 
Montebello. We expected that the party would be called 
off, because of the Khodynka disaster. Nevertheless, it 
took place, as if nothing hadTiappened, and the ball was 
opened by their Majesties dancing a quadriite 

The Emperor's character may be said to be essentially 
feminine. Someone has observed that Nature granted him 
masculine attributes by mistake. At first any official com- 
ing in personal contact with him would stand high in his 
eyes. His Majesty would even go beyond the limits of 
moderation in showering favours upon his servant, espe- 
cially if the latter had been appointed by him personally 
and not by his father. Before long, however, His Majesty 
would become indifferent to his favourite and, in the end, 
develop an animus against him. The ill-feeling apparently 
came from the consciousness that the person in question had 
been an unworthy object of his, Nicholas's, favours. I may 
observe here that His Majesty does not tolerate about his 
erson anybody he considers more intelligent than himself 



NICHOLAS II AND ALEXANDRA 183 

or anybody with opinions differing from those of the court 
camarilla. 

There is an optimistic strain in His Majesty's character, 
and he is afflicted with a strange near-sightedness, as far as 
time and space are concerned. He experiences fear only 
when the storm is actually upon him, but~asTsoo7r as the 
imrrredi atlTctange r is over his fear vanishes. Thus, even 
after the granting of the Constitution, Nicholas considered 
himself an autocratic sovereign in a sense which might be 
formulated as follows : "I do what I wish, and what I wish 
is good; if people do not see it, it is because they are plain 
mortals, while I am God's anointed." 

He is incapable of playing fair and he always seeks under- 
hand means and underground ways. He has a veritable 
passion for secret notes and methods. Even at the most 
critical moments, such as the period which immediately 
preceded the granting of the Constitution, His Majesty did 
not relinquish his "Byzantine" habits. But inasmuch as he 
does not possess the talents of either Metternich or Talley- 
rand, he usually lands in a mud puddle or in a pool of 
blood. 

The following incident well illustrates the Emperor's 
unscrupulous tendencies. When Sipyagin, one time Min- 
ister of the Interior, was assassinated by a revolutionist, in 
1902, P. N. Durnovo, his colleague, and Adjutant-General 
Hesse were entrusted with the task of setting his papers to 
rights. These were sorted out, and the documents of a 
private nature were handed to the late Minister's widow. 
She knew that her husband had kept a diary, consisting of 
two books, one covering the period of his Ministry, the 
other the time when he headed the Commission of Peti- 
tions. As the diaries were not returned to her, she inquired 
of Durnovo what had become of them and was told that 
they were in General Hesse's hands. (The subsequent 
developments of the incident I have from Mme. Sipyagin 



1 84 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

herself and her brother-in-law, Count Sheremetyev). Sev- 
eral days later the widow went to the Court to thank their 
Majesties for their attentions. In the course of the audi- 
ence the Emperor told his guest that he had received the 
diaries of her late husband, and found them so interesting 
that he would like, with her permission, to retain the books 
and read them. Mme. Sipyagin naturally gave her consent. 

Several months passed, and the diaries were still in the 
Emperor's hands. Mme. Sipyagin then turned to her 
brother-in-law, Count Sheremetyev, who was the Emperor's 
aide-de-camp and former chum, asking him to remind His 
Majesty of her late husband's notes. Shortly afterwards 
Mme. Sipyagin had an audience with the Empress, and 
when she was on the point of leaving, Her Majesty asked 
her to wait awhile, because the Emperor wished to see her. 
Several minutes later the Emperor entered the room and 
handed her a package, saying that he was returning her 
late husband's interesting memoirs and thanking her for 
the opportunity of reading them. At home, Mme. Sipyagin 
discovered, however, that only one set of diaries had been 
returned to her, namely, the one covering the time when 
her husband presided over the Commission of Petitions. 
Mme. Sipyagin again resorted to Count Sheremetyev's good 
offices to have the matter straightened out. The Count 
turned to General Hesse, but received a rather sharp reply 
to the effect that too much fuss was being made about these 
diaries. 

Several days later His Majesty went to Moscow, where 
he prepared for the sacrament, and spent the first days of 
the Easter week. At one of the official dinners Count 
Sheremetyev happened to sit next to General Hesse. The 
latter assured the Count that he had handed both sets of 
Sipyagin's diaries to His Majesty. On returning to St. 
Petersburg, the Emperor summoned Count Sheremetyev 
iand had a talk with him, which was afterwards related to 



NICHOLAS II AND ALEXANDRA 185 

me by the Count himself. He had learned, His Majesty 
had told the Count, that one set of Sipyagin's diaries was 
lost and he wondered whether Count Sheremetyev could 
account for it. The Count pointed out to His Majesty that 
neither Durnovo nor Hesse denied that they had received 
two books of diaries. He was, however, unable to explain 
the loss. Then the Emperor observed that Hesse had been 
on bad terms with Sipyagin. The General must have found 
in the diaries, His Majesty said, some unpleasant passages 
relating to himself and decided to destroy the book so as 
to prevent his monarch from reading it. "As a matter of 
fact," the Count said, concluding his tale, "I know for a 
fact that it_w_as_H]s. Majesty- himself who destroyed the 
bookofSipyagin's diaries." After the act of October 17, 
a dd i n passing, Count Sheremetyev ordered all 
the Emperor's portraits in his palace turned face to the 
wall which circumstance led to a break between us. 

Here is another incident of a similar nature which con- 
cerns me personally: 

In view of the persistent rumour that I had forced the 
Manifesto of October iyth upon the Emperor, I composed 
a memoir giving the exact facts of the matter, and pre- 
sented it to His Majesty through the Minister of the Court. 
The Emperor kept it about a fortnight and returned 
it, saying to Baron Frederichs: "The facts in Witte's 
memorandum are described correctly. However, do not 
make this statement to him in writing, but orally." The 
Baron reported these amazing words to Prince Obolensky 
and the latter to me. And to think that these words were 
spoken by the son of Alexander III, the noblest and most 
truthful of monarchs! ... Of course, I never received a 
written reply to my memorandum. 

The Emperor's part in shaping our foreign policy, espe- 
cially with regard to the Russo-Japanese War, I have dealt 
with elsewhere. Suffice it to say here that, when all is said, 



1 86 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

he alone is to be blamed for that most unhappy war, if 
indeed it is possible to condemn a man who is responsible 
for his deeds to none but God. 

At heart, His Majesty was for an aggressive policy, but 
as usual his mind was a house divided against itself. He 
kept on changing his policy from day to day. He tried to 
deceive both the Viceroy of the Far East and the Com- 
mander-in-Chief of the army, but, of course, most of the 
time he deceived nobody but himself. 

He became involved in the Far Eastern adventure be- 
cause of his youth, his natural animosity against Japan, 
where an attempt had been made on his life (he never 
speaks of that occurrence), and, finally, because of a hidden 
craving for a victorious war. I am even inclined to believe 
that, had there been no clash with Japan, war would have 
flared up on the Indian frontier, or, most probably, in 
Turkey, with the Bosphorus as the apple of discord. From 
there it would have spread to other regions. After His 
Majesty's coronation and his trip to France, Nelidov, then 
our ambassador at Constantinople, all but dragged us into 
a war with Turkey. 

In the latter part of the year 1896, there was a massacre 
of Armenians in Constantinople, preceded by a similar 
massacre in Asia Minor. In October His Majesty returned 
from abroad, and Nelidov, our Ambassador to Turkey, 
came' to St. Petersburg. His arrival gave rise to rumours 
about various measures which were going to be taken 
against Turkey. These rumours forced me to submit to 
His Majesty a memorandum in which I stated my views on 
Turkey and advised against the use of force. On Novem- 
ber 21 (December 3) I received a secret memoir drafted 
by Nelidov. The Ambassador spoke in vague terms about 
the alarming situation in Turkey and suggested that we 
should create incidents which would afford us the legal right 
and the physical possibility to seize the Upper Bosphorus. 



NICHOLAS II AND ALEXANDRA 187 

Nelidov's suggestion was discussed by a special confer- 
ence called two days later and presided over by His Majesty. 
The Ambassador insisted that a far-reaching upheaval was 
bound to occur in the near future in the Ottoman Empire 
and that, to safeguard our interests, we must occupy the 
Upper Bosphorus. He was naturally supported by the War 
Minister and the Chief of Staff, General Obruchev, for 
whom the occupation of Bosphorus and if possible of Con- 
stantinople was a veritable idee fixe. The other Ministers 
refrained from expressing their opinion on the subject, so 
that it fell to my lot to oppose this disastrous project, which 
I did with vigour and determination. I pointed out that 
the plan under consideration would eventually precipitate a 
general European war and shatter the brilliant political and 
financial position in which Emperor Alexander III left 
Russia. 

The Emperor at first confined himself to questioning the 
members of the conference. When the discussion was 
closed he declared that he shared the Ambassador's view. 
Thus the matter was settled, at least in principle. Namely, 
it was decided to bring about such events in Constantinople 
as would furnish us a specious pretext for landing troops 
and occupying Upper Bosphorus. The military authorities 
at Odessa and Sebastopol were instructed immediately to 
start the necessary preparations for the landing of troops 
in Turkey. It was also agreed that at the moment which 
Nelidov would consider opportune for the landing he would 
give the signal by sending a telegram to our financial agent 
in London requesting him to purchase a stated amount of 
grain. The dispatch was to be immediately transmitted to 
the Director of the Imperial Bank and forwarded by the 
latter to the War Minister and also to the Minister of the 
Navy. 

The minutes of the session were drawn up by the Director 
of the Foreign Ministry Shishkin. They presented the 



1 88 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

decisions of the conference as accepted unanimously. I 
notified Shishkin that I could not sign the minutes, for the 
reason that, in my opinion, the decisions of the Conference 
threatened Russia with disastrous consequences. I re- 
quested him to obtain His Majesty's permission either to 
insert a summary of my view of the matter in the minutes 
or else to state briefly that I completely disagreed with the 
conclusions arrived at by the conference. I did not wish, 
I said, to bear the responsibility for this adventure before 
history. Shishkin wrote to His Majesty and was instructed 
to insert the following statement at the beginning of the 
minutes: In the opinion of Secretary of State Witte the 
occupation of Upper Bosphorus without a preliminary 
agreement with the Great Powers is, at the present moment 
and under the present circumstances, very risky and likely 
to lead to disastrous consequences." His Majesty signed 
the minutes on November 27 (December 9) and penned on 
the margin a few words to the effect that he was in com- 
plete agreement with the opinion of the majority. 

Nelidov left for Constantinople eager to carry out his 
long cherished plan. It was expected that the signal might 
come at any moment, so that one of the secretaries of the 
Director of the Imperial Bank kept vigil all night long, 
ready to receive the fatal telegram and instructed to trans- 
mit it immediately to the Director. Fearing the conse- 
quences of the act I could not refrain from sharing my 
apprehensions with several persons very intimate with the 
Emperor, notably Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich and 
Pobiedonostzev. 

The latter read the minutes of the session and returned 
them to me with the following note: "I hasten to return 
the enclosed minutes. Thank you for having sent them to 
me. Alea jacta est. May God help us 1" 

I do not know whether it was the influence of these men 
or the influence of that Power which rules the whole world 



NICHOLAS II AND ALEXANDRA 189 

and which we call God, only His Majesty changed his mind 
and instructed Nelidov soon after the latter's departure for 
Constantinople to give up his design. It is significant that 
for some time after this incident the Emperor bore a grudge 
against me. 

It is noteworthy that at the time of the Russo-Japanese 
War the attitude of the court clique and of the Emperor 
himself toward England was one of strong hostility. This 
was due to England's agreement with Japan and also to the 
fact that she furnished refuge to the Russian revolutionists. 
To the Japanese His Majesty was in the habit of referring 
as macacoes (monkeys), using this term even in official 
documents. The English he called Jews. "An English- 
man," he liked to repeat, "is a zhid (Jew)." 

To illustrate further His Majesty's views and sympathies, 
I shall cite also this striking incident. During my premier- 
ship (1906) I received a dispatch from Governor-General 
Sologub, describing the measures taken to suppress the 
uprising in the Reval district and requesting me to exert a 
moderating influence upon Captain Richter of the punitive 
expedition, who was executing people indiscriminately with- 
out the least semblance of legality. I submitted the dispatch 
to His Majesty, who returned it to me with the following 
words jotted down opposite the lines describing the captain's 
bloody deeds: "Fine! A capital fellow!" Afterwards he 
asked me to send back this telegram to him. He never 
returned it to me. Some time after I left the post of Prime 
Minister, His Majesty received me very amiably and asked 
me to return all letters and telegrams with his autographed 
commentaries which were in my possession. I did so, and 
I how regret it. These documents would shed a remarkable 
light on the character of this truly unhappy sovereign, with 
all his intellectual and moral weaknesses. 

When, in the course of my official conferences with His 
Majesty, I referred to public opinion, His Majesty often- 



i 9 o THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

times snapped angrily : "What have I got to do with public 
opinion?" He considered, and justly, that public opinion 
was the opinion of the "intellectuals." As for the Em- 
peror's view of the intellectuals, I recall a story related to 
me by Prince Mirski. When Nicholas was visiting the 
Western provinces, the Prince, in his capacity of local 
Governor-General, accompanied His Majesty and dined 
with him. Once at table someone referred to the intelli- 
gentsia (intellectuals). The Emperor caught the word 
and exclaimed : "How I detest that word ! I wish I could 
order the Academy to strike it off the Russian dictionary." 

The Emperor was made to believe that the people as a 
whole, exclusive of the intellectuals, stood firmly with him. 
That was also Her Majesty's conviction. On one occasion, 
discussing the political situation with the Empress, Prince 
Mirski remarked that in Russia everybody was against the 
existing regime. To this the Empress sharply replied that 
only the intellectuals were against the Czar and his govern- 
ment, but that the people always had been and always would 
be for the Czar. "Yes," retorted the Prince, "that is true 
enough, but it is the intellectual class that makes history 
everywhere while the masses are merely an elemental power; 
to-day they massacre the revolutionary intellectuals, to- 
morrow they may loot the Czar's palaces." 

The Emperor was surrounded by avowed Jew-haters, 
such as Trepov, Plehve, Ignatyev, and the leaders of the 
Black Hundreds. As for his personal attitude toward the 
Jews I recall that whenever I drew his attention to the fact 
that the anti-Jewish riots could not be tolerated, he either 
was silent or remarked: "But it is they themselves, i.e., 
the Jews (His Majesty always used the opprobrious zhidy, 
instead of yevrei) that are to blame." The anti-Jewish 
current flowed not from below upward, but in the opposite 
direction. 

In December, 1905, an atrocious anti-Jewish pogrom 



NICHOLAS II AND ALEXANDRA 191 

broke out at Homel. I requested Durnovo, the Minister 
of the Interior, to institute an investigation. It revealed 
that the bloody riot was organized, in a most efficient man- 
ner, by secret service agents under the direction of the local 
officer of gendarmes, Count Podgorichani, who did not deny 
his role in the affair. I asked Durnovo to report the find- 
ings of the investigation to the Council of Ministers. The 
Council sharply condemned the activity of the governmental 
secret service and recommended that Count Podgorichani 
should be dismissed and tried. The opinion of the Council 
was recorded in the minutes of the session, but in a very 
mild form. The minutes were in due course submitted to 
His Majesty. With visible displeasure he wrote the follow- 
ing words on the margin : "How does all this business con- 
cern me? The case of Count Podgorichani is within the 
province of the Minister of the Interior." Several months 
later I learned that Count Podgorichani was chief of police 
in one of the Black Sea cities. 

In his attitude toward^ the Jews, as in all other respects, 
the Emperor's idealTarTat bottom those of the Bla.ck Hun- 
dreds. The strength of that party lies precisely in the fact 
that their Majesties have conceived the notion that those 
anarchists of the Right are their salvation. 

The party of "True Russians," as the Black Hundreds 
style themselves, is fundamentally patriotic, which circum- 
stance, given our universal cosmopolitanism, should com- 
mand our sympathy. But the patriotism of "the Black Hun- 
dreds" is purely elemental; it is based not on reason, but 
on passion. Most of their leaders are unscrupulous politi- 
cal adventurers, with not a single practical and honest 
political idea, and all their efforts are directed toward 
goading and exploiting the low instincts of the mob. Being 
under the protection of the two-winged eagle, this party 
may be able to cause appalling riots and upheavals, but its 
work will necessarily be purely destructive and negative. 



192 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

It is the embodiment of savage, nihilistic patriotism, feed- 
ing on lies, slander, and deceit, the party of savage and 
cowardly despair, devoid of the manly and clear-eyed spirit 
of creativeness. The bulk of the party is dark-minded and 
ignorant, the leaders are unhanged villains, among whom 
there are some titled noblemen and a number of secret sym- 
pathizers recruited from the courtiers. Their welfare is 
made secure by the reign of lawlessness, and their motto 
is: "Not we for the people, but the people for the good 
of our bellies." It should be pointed out, however, that the 
"Black Hundred" leaders, be they secret or patent, consti- 
tute a negligible minority of Russian nobility. They are its 
outcasts feeding on the crumbs, rich crumbs indeed, which 
fall from the Czar's table. And the poor misguided Em- 
peror dreams of restoring Russia's grandeur with the aid of 
this party ! Poor Emperor ! 

In this connection I recall the Emperor's shameful tele- 
gram to that notorious sharper, Dubrovin, the president of 
the Russian People's Union (a "Black Hundred" organiza- 
tion), dated June 3, 1907. In this most gracious dispatch, 
His Majesty expressed his approval of Dubrovin's actions 
in his capacity of president of the Russian People's Union 
and assured him that in the future, too, he would lean upon 
that band of cut-throats. This telegram, coupled with the 
manifesto which dissolved the Second Duma, revealed all 
the poverty of this autocratic Emperor's political thought 
and the morbidity of his mind. 

Alexander III was a very thrifty ruler. Throughout his 

* reign the budget of the Ministry of the Court remained 
stationary. With the ascension of Nicholas II to the throne 
that budget began rapidly to increase. According to the 
law, the budget was to be fixed by the Imperial Council in 

, the regular way. But in practice the estimate was the result 
of an understanding between the Minister of the Court 
and the Minister of Finances, and the figure thus arrived at 



NICHOLAS II AND ALEXANDRA 193 

was, as a rule, ratified by the Imperial Council. With 
Nicholas's ascension to the throne, Count Vorontzov- 
Dashkov, then Minister of the Court, began greatly to 
increase the expenditures of the Ministry. As he ignored 
my remonstrances, I submitted a report to the Emperor. 
His Majesty told me that it was his desire to be as economi- 
cal as his father had been. He must have subsequently told 
something unpleasant to Count Vorontzov-Dashkov, be- 
cause the latter came to me and practically confessed him- 
self in the wrong. Several months later the Count left his 
post and was succeeded by Baron Frederichs. Shortly 
afterwards I received an Imperial decree abolishing the 
then existing regulations concerning the fixation of the 
budget of the Ministry of the Court and establishing the 
following order of estimating the expenditures of that Min- 
istry: the estimate is drawn up and submitted for Imperial 
confirmation by the Ministry of the Court alone; the final 
figure is communicated to the Minister of Finances, who 
inserts it in the general budget, without allowing it to be 
discussed in the Imperial Council. The decree concluded 
with a provision that the new law should not be published, 
to avoid needless discussion, but in the next edition of the 
statutes the articles pertaining thereto should be modified 
accordingly. Such an illegal procedure had been unknown 
in Russia since the days of Paul I, and he, too, would have 
perhaps hesitated to do what practically amounted to forg- 
ing the laws of the land. 

Speaking of their Majesties' attitude toward my own 
person, I should like to say that I am aware of having been 
the ob]ect^f\Alexandra's particular enmity. I believe it 
goes back to an incident which occurred in 1900, if I re- 
member rightly. That year, in the course of a stay at 
Yalta, Crimea, the Emperor was taken ill and developed 
intestinal tyjjhiis. Nicholas II had a distaste for medical 
treatment. This is, I believe, a family trait with the 



Romanovs. It is my conviction that his father died pre- 
maturely for the reason that he started a serious course of 
treatment when it was too late. The court physician of 
Emperor Nicholas was a certain Hirsch, a much esteemed 
gentleman, who had inherited rather than earned his posi- 
tion. He had practically no professional standing either 
as physician or surgeon. 

As chance would have it, Sipyagin, Minister of the In- 
terior, and myself happened to be at Yalta at the time 
when the Emperor fell ill. We immediately sounded the 
alarm and summoned a medical celebrity from St. Peters- 
burg. When the disease reached its critical stage, I was 
asked by Sipyagin to come to see him in the hotel where he 
stayed. Besides the host, I found in the study Grand Duke 
Mikhail Nikolaievich, Count Lamsdorff, Minister, of For- 
eign Affairs, and Baron Frederichs, Minister of the Court. 
They were in the course of discussing the situation which 
would be created by His Majesty's death while there was 
no heir. At that time Czarevich Alexey was not yet born. 
It was suggested that, since the Empress might be with 
child, she should be declared regent until the time of her 
delivery. I opposed that plan, insisting that the letter of 
the law should be followed, that is, that the Emperor's next 
of kin, his brother Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, 
should ascend the throne. I succeeded in winning over to 
my side all the members of this improvised conference. It 
was decided that, in the event of the Emperor's death, we 
would immediately take an oath of allegiance to Mikhail 
Alexandrovich. This incident, which ended in nothing be- 
cause Emperor Nicholas recovered from his illness, was 
interpreted by Her Majesty as an underhand intrigue on 
my part against her, whence her animosity against me. 
When I surrendered my post of Prime Minister, Her 
Majesty expressed her satisfaction, I was told, by an inter- 
jection of relief. 



NICHOLAS II AND ALEXANDRA 195 

Despite my many and invaluable services to himself and 
his Empire, the Emperor's attitude to my person, except 
during the early part of his reign, was essentially in keeping 
with Her Majesty's profound distaste for me. Since my 
resignation as President of the Council of Ministers I have 
had but two audiences with His Majesty. The first oc- 
curred in 1906, after my return from abroad, where I was 
practically in exile, and lasted about twenty minutes. We 
spoke about the monument to Alexander III, which was at 
that time in the course of construction. An interval of six 
years separates this interview from the second audience. 
Since 1912 I have not been received by the Emperor. 

During the early part of his reign Nicholas was under 
the ascendancy of the Grand Dukes and partly also of his 
mother, Empress Dowager Maria Fyodorovna. The influ- 
ence of Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolai Nikolaievich, Junior, 
probably lasted longest. The circumstance may be due to 
the fact that he was possessed of that mysticism complex 
with which Empress Alexandra had infected her husband. 

An incident in my relations with Grand Duke Nicholas 
will illustrate this phase of his character. I had made his 
acquaintance at Kiev, in the house of his mother, Grand 
Duchess Alexandra Petrovna, which I frequented. At that 
time I was director of the South Western Railroads, while 
he was a colonel attached to the General Staff. Sometimes 
we played cards. His mother was an excellent woman, but 
also affected by the craze of occultism. Later I saw him 
repeatedly, but never had an occasion to converse with him. 
When I became Minister, he sent me his visiting card on 
holidays, or left it at the house. Some time after my ap- 
pointment as President of the Committee of Ministers I 
went to see him. The conversation turned upon the 
Emperor. 

"Tell me frankly, Sergey Yulyevich," he said suddenly, 



196 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

"is the Emperor, in your judgment, merely a human being 
or is he more?" 

"Well," I retorted, "the Emperor is my master and I 
am his faithful servant, but though he is an autocratic Ruler, 
given to us by God or Nature, he is nevertheless a human 
being with all the peculiarities of one." 

"To my mind," remarked the Grank Duke, "the Em- 
peror is not a mere human being, but rather a being inter- 
mediate between man and God." We parted. 

The influence of the Empress Dowager (Maria Fyoro- 
dorovna) upon her son was, I believe, a power for good. 
But after his marriage, his mother's influence rapidly waned 
and Nicholas fell permanently under the spell of his wife, a 
woman hysterical and unbalanced, yet possessed of a suffi- 
ciently strong character to master him completely and infect 
him with her own morbidity. 

Several years before the death of Alexander III an in- 
effectual attempt was made to find a wife for the future 
Emperor Nicholas II. In that connection Princess Alix of 
Darmstadt was brought to St. Petersburg for inspection. 
She was not liked, and at the time the project of marrying 
the heir apparent came to nothing. That was a grave 
mistake. Young Nicholas, naturally enough, sought illicit 
pleasures and took up with the ballet dancer Kszesinska. 
His liaison with that woman remained unknown to his 
august father, but it could not escape the attention of those 
nearest to the Emperor. They urged him to hasten the 
marriage of the heir. In the meantime His Majesty was 
taken ill and, as a result, became anxious to see his son 
married without any further delay. It was then the rejected 
bride, Princess Alix, was remembered, and the heir was 
dispatched to Darmstadt to ask her hand. 

I got a premonition of the fateful character of this 
decision from Count Osten-Sacken, our present envoy to 
Germany, who told me the following story in the course of 



NICHOLAS II AND ALEXANDRA 197 

an intimate talk which took place in Berlin. "Under Alex- 
ander II," the esteemed count said, "I was attached to the 
court of Darmstadt in the capacity of Charge d'affaires, and 
was well acquainted with the Grand Duke's family. Under 
Alexander III the post of Charge d'affaires was abolished, 
and I was transferred to Munich. When the Heir Ap- 
parent went to Darmstadt I was ordered to join him there. 
The first day after my arrival in Darmstadt I had a talk 
with the old Ober-Hoffmarschall with whom I was on 
friendly terms at the time when I was attached to the court. 
The conversation turned upon the Princess. "When I left 
Darmstadt," I said, "Princess Alix was a little girl. Tell 
me frankly, what do you think of her, now that she is grown 
up?" The old courtier rose, examined all the doors to 
make sure that no one was eavesdropping and said: "What 
a piece of good luck it is for Hesse-Darmstadt that you 
are taking her away!" 

She accepted Nicholas of course, she did and ex- 
pressed her regret, no doubt sincerely, that she would have 
to change her religion. She knew about Russian Orthodoxy 
no more than a new-born babe knows about the theory of the 
perturbations of heavenly bodies, and, given her narrow- 
mindedness and stubbornness, it was, I do not doubt, hard 
for her to forsake the religion into which she was born* 
One must keep in mind that her conversion was due not to 
any lofty motives but to purely mundane considerations. 
However, having embraced Orthodoxy, she seems to have 
succeeded in convincing herself that it was the only true 
religion known to mankind. Of course, the religious essence 
of Orthodoxy still is and will perhaps always be a sealed 
book to her, but she is spellbound by the external forms of 
our ritual, such as captivate her eye at the solemn church 
services in the various court chapels. She worships the 
forms, not the spirit of our religion. It is easy to see how 
the religion of such a woman, who lives in the morbid at- 



198 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

mosphere of Oriental luxury and is surrounded by a legion 
of perennially cringing retainers, was bound to degenerate 
into crude mysticism, and into fanaticism unrelieved by 
loving kindness. Hence, the far-famed "Dr." Philippe, the 
cult of St. Seraphim of Sarov, imported mediums, and 
home-bred "idiots" passing as saints all of which I shall 
discuss presently. 

Emperor Nicholas was married to Princess Alix on 
November 13, 1894, soon after his ascension to the throne. 
Alexandra does not lack physical charms. She has a strong 
character and she is a good mother. She might have been a 
good enough consort for a petty German prince, and she 
might have been harmless even as the Empress of Russia, 
were it not for the lamentable fact that His Majesty has 
no will power at all. The extent of Alexandra's influence 
upon her husband can hardly be exaggerated. In many 
cases she actually directs his actions as the head of the 
Empire. On one occasion, I recall, Nicholas referred to 
Her Majesty as "a person in whom I have absolute faith." 
The fate of many millions of human beings is actually in 
the hands of that woman. Surely the poor Emperor, and 
all of us who are his devoted servants, and, above all, 
Russia, would have been much happier had Princess Alix 
married a German Duke or Count. 

Now to return to that strange and crude mysticism, 
which, as I have said above, took hold of Empress Alex- 
andra and with which she infected her august spouse. In 
the course of my stay in Paris in 1903 I had long talks with 
Baron Alphonse, the septuagenarian head of the Rothschild 
house. Our conversation mostly revolved around the pre- 
occupation with the occult and the mystic which had taken 
root at the Russian Court, this being, in the Baron's opinion, 
a bad symptom. He repeatedly returned to this subject. 
History shows, he pointed out, that great events, especially 
of an internal nature, were always and everywhere preceded 



NICHOLAS II AND ALEXANDRA 199 

by the prevalence of a bizarre mysticism at the court of the 
ruler. He even sent me a book on the subject, in which the 
author presented an array of historical evidence in support 
of this view. The Baron told me that the influence of a 
certain Dr. Philippe, of Lyons, upon their Majesties and 
some Grand Dukes and Duchesses was being much talked 
of in France. He repeated some of the rumours which 
were abroad, adding that much was probably exaggerated, 
but that, no doubt, the charlatan Philippe often saw their 
Majesties, was worshipped by them as a saint and exerted 
a substantial influence upon their inner life. 

All these stories, bruited abroad in France, made a pain- 
ful impression on us Russians. Of course, I heard a good 
deal about Philippe in Petrograd, too. I shall set down 
here all the authentic information on the subject which I 
have in my possession. Philippe originally resided at 
Lyons, France. He had completed no course of study. 
When his daughter married a physician, Philippe began to 
practise as a quack doctor and, as is often the case, was 
sometimes successful. Besides quackery, he also practised 
fortune telling. Those who knew him reported that he was 
clever and possessed a peculiar occult power over men and 
women who were of a flabby will or were afflicted with dis- 
eased nerves. As a result of his charlatan activities, he 
had several lawsuits. He was forbidden to practise by the 
government and several times prosecuted. Nevertheless, 
he succeeded in securing a group of admirers, mostly among 
the nationalists. It included our military agent in Paris, 
Count Muraviov-Amursky. There is no doubt but that the 
count was practically out of his mind. He tried to involve 
us in a quarrel with the republican Government which he 
hated whole-heartedly. 

It was this Count and other admirers of Philippe who 
declared this impostor a saint. At any rate, they asserted 
that he was not born in the usual commonplace way, but 



200 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

that he had descended direct from heaven and would make 
his exit from life in the same extraordinary fashion. In 
France, Philippe was introduced to a Russian Duchess. It 
was either by the wife of Grand Duke Peter, Militza, the 
Montenegrin Princess No. i, or the wife of Prince Leuch- 
tenberg, Anastasia, the Montenegrin Princess No. 2 ; I do 
not know which one it was. 

(The other day, the Montenegrin Princess No. 2, at the 
instigation of the spirits and with their Majesties' permis- 
sion, divorced the Prince of Leuchtenberg and married his 
cousin, Grand Duke Nicholas.) 

This friendship of the two Montenegrin princesses for 
Dr. Philippe was of vast importance to Russia, for they 
were the most intimate confidantes of the Empress. It is 
worth while to trace their entree to the Russian Court, upon 
which they exerted such a baleful influence. While very 
young they were placed by their father, Prince Nicholas of 
Montenegro, in the Smolny Institute, where they attracted 
but little attention. They were graduated from the Insti- 
tute at the time when Alexander III broke the traditional 
bonds which attached Russia to Germany, and when the 
union with France was yet in the incipient stage. It was at 
that time that Alexander II, at a dinner given in honour of 
Prince Nicholas of Montenegro, proposed the famous 
toast: "To my only friend, Prince Nicholas of Monte- 
negro." This toast was proposed not so much out of love 
for Prince Nicholas, as with the intention of informing the 
world that the Emperor neither had nor needed any 
friends. 

On his part, Prince Nicholas of Montenegro did every- 
thing in his power to ingratiate himself in the favour of the 
Emperor. It was natural that the latter should bestow his 
good graces upon this representative of a knightly race, 
which of all the Slavic peoples manifested the greatest 
attachment to us Russians. Under these circumstances, it 



NICHOLAS II AND ALEXANDRA 201 

was quite proper for Emperor Alexander to show some 
attention to the Montenegrin princesses. This was suffi- 
cient for some of the members of the Imperial family to 
come forward as suitors. By that time, it will be remem- 
bered, we were already in possession of a whole drove of 
Grand Dukes. Grand Duke Peter, the sickly youngest son 
of Grand Duke Nicholas (Nikolai Nikolaievich, Senior), 
who cammanded our armies in the last Turkish War, mar- 
ried the Montenegrin Princess No. i, while the Princess 
No. 2 was married to Prince Yuri of Leuchtenberg. 

Thus, owing to Alexander III, the Montenegrin Prin- 
cesses were married off to second-rate dukes. The story 
would have ended then and there, had not Nicholas II 
ascended the throne and married Alix. Her Majesty was 
met by the Dowager Empress and by the Grand Duchesses 
very cordially, indeed, but yet not as an Empress. The 
Montenegrin Princesses were the only ones to bow before 
her as before an Empress and to flaunt a most abject ad- 
miration and infinite love for her. It happened that the 
Empress contracted a stomach disease, and they took advan- 
tage of this occasion to display their devotion. They clung 
to her day and night, sent away the chambermaids and took 
upon themselves the latter's rather disagreeable tasks. In 
this fashion, they ingratiated themselves into the favour of 
Her Majesty and became her closest friends. Their influ- 
ence upon their Majesties grew in proportion as the influ- 
ence of the Dowager Empress decreased. 

It was these Montenegrin Princesses who became zealous 
devotees of Dr. Philippe. While in Paris, one of them 
summoned the head of our secret police at Paris, Rach- 
kovski, and expressed a desire that Philippe should be 
allowed to practise his art and given a medical diploma. 
Naturally, Rachkovski explained to the swarthy Duchess 
all the naivete of her demand. As he spoke of the charlatan 



202 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

in terms not sufficiently courteous, he gained for himself a 
dangerous enemy at the Court. 

And it was through the good offices of these Monte- 
negrins that Philippe gained access to the Grand Dukes, 
and later to their Majesties. Empress Alexandra was on 
intimate terms with none of the female members of the 
Imperial family except those Montenegrin women, who 
were to her a cross between bosom-friends and chamber- 
maids. For months Philippe secretly lived in St. Peters- 
burg and in the Summer residences of his high patrons. 
Consultations and mystic seances were continuously going 
on there with the participation of their Majesties, the 
Grand Dukes, and their Montenegrin wives. 

While in Russia, Philippe was in the care of the Court 
Commandant, Adjutant-General Hesse, who, just like the 
present commandant, had his own secret service. Hesse 
found it necessary to inquire from Rachkovski about 
Philippe's personality. Rachkovski drew up a report which 
presented Philippe as the charlatan that he was. This 
report he brought with him to St. Petersburg, when he came 
there on business. Before submitting it to Hesse, he read 
it to Sipyagin. The latter told him that officially he knew 
nothing of the report, inasmuch as it was not addressed to 
him. Privately, he advised Rachkovski to throw it into 
the fire which was burning on the hearth. Nevertheless, 
Rachkovski did submit the report. With Plehve's appoint- 
ment to the ministerial post, Rachkovski was dismissed 
and forbidden to reside in Paris and, if I remember rightly, 
in France generally. Plehve explained to me that he had 
been forced to do this. Hesse made every effort to protect 
Rachkovski, but in vain. Under Trepov's regime, how- 
ever, which was a sort of dictatorship, Rachkovski was 
again summoned to occupy an important post in the Police 
Department. 

Since Philippe did not succeed in getting a diploma in 



NICHOLAS II AND ALEXANDRA 203 

France, the St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy was 
forced to bestow upon him the degree of doctor of medi- 
cine, in flagrant violation of the law. This happened at 
the time when Kuropatkin was Minister of War. Fur- 
thermore, "Dr." Philippe was actually granted the rank 
of Councillor of State. All this was done in secrecy. The 
saint paid a visit to a tailor and ordered an army physician's 
uniform. 

The night seances with Philippe, though kept secret, 
greatly annoyed the Dowager Empress Maria Fyodorovna. 
The Prince of Leuchtenberg and Grand Duke Nicholas, the 
first and the second husbands of the Montenegrin Princess 
No. 2, when asked by inquisitive friends about Philippe, 
replied that in any event he was a saint. Little by little, a 
small group of illuminists formed around "Dr." Philippe. 

Empress Alexandra fell completely under the influence 
of the impostor. Among other things she actually believed 
that "Dr." Philippe had an enchanted life and could not be 
harmed by physical means. Nothing will better illustrate 
the extent and nature of his ascendancy over the Empress 
than the following incredible, yet well authenticated, inci- 
dent. At the time when she was under the sway of the 
charlatan she was very anxious to have a son, because the 
four children who had previously been born to their 
Majesties were all girls. Dr. Philippe made Her Majesty 
believe that she was going to give birth to a boy, and she 
convinced herself that she was pregnant. The last months 
of the imaginary pregnancy came. Everybody noticed that 
she had grown considerably stouter. She began to wear 
loose garments, and ceased to appear at court functions. 
Everyone was sure that Her Majesty was pregnant, the 
Emperor was overjoyed, and the population of St. Peters- 
burg expected, from day to day, to hear the cannon shots 
from the Petropavlovsky Fortress, which, in accordance 
with an ancient custom, announce the birth of Imperial off- 



204 

spring. Finally, the Impress ceased to walk, and the court 
accoucheur, Professor Ott, with his assistants, came to stay 
in the palace at Peterhof. But time passed without the 
confinement taking place. Finally, Professor Ott asked Her 
Majesty's permission to examine her. She agreed, and the 
physician, after a thorough examination, declared that the 
Empress was not pregnant. 

It is easy to see what havoc such an hysterical woman 
could work, when invested with the tremendous power 
which an autocratic regime places in the hands of the ruler. 

At the Summer residence of Grand Duke Peter, Philippe 
met a number of ecclesiastics, among them the notorious 
Father John of Kronstadt. It was apparently there that 
the project was hatched of canonizing the staretz (saintly 
man) Seraphim of Sarov. 

This incident was related to me by K. P. Pobiedonostzev 
himself. One fine morning he was invited, he told me, to 
take luncheon with their Majesties. The invitation came 
unexpectedly, because at that time relations between their 
Majesties and Pobiedonostzev were rather strained, al- 
though he had been instructor both to the Emperor and 
his most august father. After breakfast, at which Pobiedo- 
nostzev was alone with his Imperial hosts, the Emperor, in 
the presence of the Empress, asked his guests to submit to 
him a decree canonizing Father Seraphim, on the day when 
the memory of that saintly man is celebrated, which was a 
few weeks off. Pobiedonostzev replied to the effect that 
canonization lay within the province of the Holy Synod and 
must be preceded by a thorough investigation of the candi- 
date's life and of the people's views on the subject, as ex- 
pressed in oral traditions. To this the Empress replied by 
remarking that "everything is within the Emperor's prov- 
ince." This opinion I, have heard from Her Majesty on 
various occasions. Nevertheless, the Emperor gave heed 
to his guest's arguments, and Pobiedonostzev, on the 



NICHOLAS II AND ALEXANDRA 205 

evening of the same day, received from the Emperor an 
amiable note, expressing agreement with the opinion about 
the impossibility of immediately canonizing Seraphim, and 
ordering Pobiedonostzev to carry out the canonization the 
following year. 

Pobiedonostzev obeyed. Their Majesties were present 
at the ceremony of consecrating the relics. In the course 
of that celebration there were several cases of miraculous 
recovery. At night the Empress bathed in a healing foun- 
tain. The conviction prevailed, it was said, that the Sarov 
saint would give Russia an Heir Apparent, after four grand 
duchesses. This momentous event did take place and estab- 
lished the absolute faith of their Majesties in the efficacy 
and holiness of Saint Seraphim. A portrait-icon of that 
saint appeared in the Emperor's study. During the revolu- 
tionary days which followed the act of October lyth, Prince 
A. D. Obolensky,then Procurator of the Holy Synod, re- 
peatedly complained to me about the interference of the 
Montenegrin Princesses in the affairs of the Holy Synod. 
On one occasion, he said, he spoke of Saint Seraphim to the 
Emperor in connection with that matter, and His Majesty 
said: "As for Saint Seraphim's holiness and the authen- 
ticity of his miracle, I am so fully convinced of them that 
no one will ever shake my belief." 

A number of men made their careers through the Saint 
Seraphim incident. Among them was Prince Shirinski- 
Shakhmatov, who staged the ceremony of consecrating the 
relics. Following close upon that solemnity he was ap- 
pointed Governor of Tver. In that capacity he distin- 
guished himself by requesting the priests to vouch for "the 
political reliability" of the population. As a result, Prince 
Mirski, the then Minister of the Interior, dismissed him, 
thus bringing upon himself the displeasure of His Maj- 
esty. As soon as Prince Shirinski-Shakhmatov arrived in 
St. Petersburg, the Emperor received him, listened to his 



206 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

insinuations against Prince Mirski and, contrary to all regu- 
lations, appointed him senator. When I was forced, after 
the First Duma met, to surrender the office of President of 
the Council of Ministers, Prince Shirinski was appointed 
Procurator of the Holy Synod in Goremykin's Cabinet. 
The collapse of this cabinet and the appointment of Stolypin 
as President of the Council led to Prince Shirinski's dis- 
missal. His Majesty immediately appointed him member 
of the Imperial Council. At present he sits in the Imperial 
Council as the head of the Black Hundreds. Prince Shirin- 
ski has all the defects and vices of Pobiedonostzev, without 
having, in the slightest degree, his good points, such as edu- 
cation, refinement, experience, knowledge, and political 
decency. 

Philippe died before the end of the Russo-Japanese War. 
His devotees asserted that, having fulfilled his mission on 
earth, he ascended, alive, to Heaven. 



CHAPTER VIII 

s* 

THE CZAR'S ATTEMPTS AT REFORM 

I SHALL now deal with the devious course of the move- 
ment, within the governmental circles, for legislative and 
administrative reforms during the reign of Nicholas II, 
which culminated in the Constitutional Manifesto of Octo- 
ber 17, 1905, after passing through many stages of pathetic 
failure and ineffectiveness. 

While his most august father was still reigning, Nicholas 
gave proof of sincere sympathy for the lot of the 
peasant. Thus, in 1893, in his capacity of chairman of the 
Committee on the Siberian Railroad, he sided with me in 
my efforts to encourage migration of landless peasants to 
Siberia, which measure was opposed by the landowners as 
tending to deplete the supply of cheap agricultural labour. 
When Nicholas ascended the throne, I thought that he 
would inaugurate an era marked by a policy of fairness and 
intelligent care for the peasant, in keeping with the ad- 
mirable traditions of his grandfather, the Emperor- 
Liberator. But my hopes were to be shattered. It soon 
became apparent that the young Emperor had fallen under 
the sway of powers inimical to the interests of the peasantry. 
The effect of the addresses delivered by some of the deputa- 
tions from the nobility and the zemstvos which came to 
congratulate the young sovereign may have been responsible 
in part for His Majesty's change of heart. The feelings 
and desires voiced in these addresses were akin to those 
which swept Russia in the revolutionary days of 1905-1906. 
The spokesmen of these delegations, I believe, should have 
been more restrained in the expression of their wishes. 

207 



208 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Minister of the Interior I. N. Durnovo and the famous 
Procurator of the Most Holy Synod Pobiedonostzev took 
advantage of this tactlessness, and as a result the Emperor 
rebuked the liberals by referring to their wishes, which were 
couched in the most respectful and loyal terms, as "vain 
dreams." Ten years later these vain dreams were to come 
true. 

In the early days of the present reign I made several 
attempts to draw His Majesty's attention to the peasant 
problem, pointing out the necessity of forming a special 
commission for the study of that problem. But my efforts 
were constantly thwarted by Plehve, and, to my complete 
surprise, instead of a peasant commission, a conference was 
created in 1895 for the study of the needs of the landed 
gentry. I. N. Durnovo, President of the Committee of 
Ministers, was put at the head of the conference, but Plehve 
soon became its leading spirit. The membership of that 
body was such that it was clearly intended to raise the 
economic status of the private landowners alone, and espe- 
cially of our debt-ridden and artificially supported nobility. 
In my capacity of Minister of Finances, I, too, was a mem- 
ber of the conference. At the very first session of the con- 
ference I declared that, as the peasant was our chief land- 
owner and agricultural toiler, especial attention should be 
given to his needs. Peasant prosperity, I argued, would 
mean prosperity for the class of landed proprietors gen- 
erally. The chairman interrupted me and did not let me 
terminate my speech. He had consulted the Emperor, he 
announced at the opening of the subsequent session, and 
His Majesty had expressed himself to the effect that he had 
appointed the conference for the purpose of examining the 
needs of the nobility exclusively. Consequently, His 
Majesty ordered the conference, Durnovo declared, to con- 
fine itself to that specific task. 

This decision was equivalent to a death sentence for the 



THE CZAR'S ATTEMPTS AT REFORM 209 

conference. It lasted some three years, the problems upon 
which it deliberated being mostly various privileges for the, 
nobility and financial assistance to them to be derived from? 
the public treasury. I opposed most of these schemes, and 
made every effort to expose the greed of the nobility. I 
aroused thereby the ire of that part of the nobility which 
looks at the Russian Empire as a cow to be milked by them. 
All the while Plehve played the part of the champion of 
ultra-feudal tendencies. In his speeches he constantly made 
incursions into Russia's past to show that the Russian Em- 
pire owed its existence chiefly to the nobility. Plehve found 
in me an implacable opponent. I confess I did not spare 
his amour-propre, so that on several occasions he appealed 
to the chairman for protection. Needless to say, the con- 
ference achieved practically nothing. Durnovo received a 
generous prize and several small financial concessions were 
given as a sop to the nobility, but a certain element among 
the nobility could never forget my opposition to the plans 
of the conference. It goes without saying that I have never 
entertained any hostile feelings against the nobility as a 
class. I am myself an hereditary nobleman and was 
brought up on genteel traditions. I am aware that there 
are among our landed aristocracy many truly noble and 
unselfish men and women, imbued with the spirit which 
should animate every true nobleman, namely, that of pro- 
tecting the weak and serving the people generally. All the 
great reforms of the 'Sixties were carried out by a handful 
of noblemen, and in our own days there are aristocrats who 
do not separate their welfare from the welfare of the people 
and who sometimes serve the cause of the nation at the 
peril of their very lives. Yet such noblemen are in the 
minority. The majority is politically a mass of degenerate 
humanity, which recognizes nothing but the gratification of 
its selfish interests and lusts, and which seeks to obtain 



210 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

all manner of privileges and gratuities at the expense of 
the taxpayers generally, that is, chiefly the peasantry. 

It is noteworthy that the minutes of the sessions of the 
conference have hitherto remained unpublished. Should 
these documents become known, even the unscrupulous third 
Duma would blush with shame. Although they are not by 
any means a faithful report of the debates, their publica- 
tion, as well as the publication of the memoranda which 
were addressed to the conference, would throw a great deal 
of light upon many aspects of the disaster which befell us 
after the Japanese War. At the beginning of the 2Oth 
century it is impossible to pursue with impunity a mediaeval 
course of policy. When the nation becomes, at least partly, 
conscious of its dignity and needs, it is impossible to follow 
the policy of a patently unjust encouragement of the privi- 
leged minority at the expense of the majority. Rulers and 
politicians who do not grasp this simple truth prepare a 
revolution with their own hands. At the first weakening 
of the Government's power and prestige, it bursts out with 
the violence of an uncontrollable explosion. Our revolu- 
tion took place because our Government was blind to the 
fundamental fact that society moves onward. It is the 
duty of the rulers to regulate this movement and hold it in 
check. When they fail to do so and, instead, dam the 
current, the result is a revolutionary flood. This flood is 
made more dangerous in Russia by the fact that 35 per cent, 
of the population consists of non-Russian, conquered na- 
tionalities. Anyone who has intelligently read recent history 
knows how difficult the development of nationalism in the 
past century has rendered the task of welding together 
heterogeneous national elements into a uniform body 
politic. 

Upon the dissolution of the Noblemen's Conference I 
again called His Majesty's attention to the peasant prob- 
lem in my yearly report relating to the State budget for the 



THE CZAR'S ATTEMPTS AT REFORM 211 

year 1898. Taking advantage of the fact that the State 
Comptroller several months later also touched upon that 
matter in his yearly report to the Emperor, I laid before 
the Committee of Ministers a proposal for the formation 
of a special conference for the study of the peasant problem, 
to be made up of high State officials under the presidency 
of a statesman appointed by the Emperor, or, better still, 
of His Majesty himself. Goremykin raised no objections, 
but Plehve and, consequently, Durnovo, strenuously op- 
posed this measure. Nevertheless, the Committee of Min- 
isters expressed itself in favour of the plan, and it was 
decided to form a special conference u to study the problems 
relating to the extension and development of the legislation 
about the peasant class." The Emperor neither sanctioned 
the minutes of the session, nor definitely declined to sign 
them, and the matter remained in abeyance. In the mean- 
time, Summer came. The Emperor left for Crimea. I 
addressed to him the following letter, emphasizing the im- 
portance of the conference, and imploring him not to give 
up the plan : 

The Crimean War opened the eyes of those who could see. They 
perceived that Russia could not be strong under a regime based on 
slavery. Your grandfather cut the Gordian knot with his autocratic 
sword. He redeemed the soul and body of his people from their 
owners. That unprecedented act created the colossus who is now in 
Your autocratic hands. Russia was transformed, she increased her 
power and her knowledge tenfold. And this in spite of the fact 
that after the emancipation a liberal movement arose which threat- 
ened to shatter the autocratic power, which is the very basis of the 
existence of the Russian Empire. . . . The crisis of the 'eighties was 
not caused by the emancipation of the serfs. It was brought about 
by the corrupting influence of the Press, the disorganization of the 
school, the liberal self-governing institutions and, finally, the fact 
that the authority of the organs of the Autocratic power had 
been undermined as a result of constant attacks upon the bureau- 
cracy on the part of all manner of people. . . . Emperor Alexander 
II freed the serfs, but he did not organize the life on the firm basis 



212 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

of law. Emperor Alexander III, absorbed by the task of restoring 
Russia's international prestige, strengthening our military power, im- 
proving our finances, suppressing the unrest, did not have the time 
to complete the work begun by his most august father. This task 
has been bequeathed to your Imperial Majesty. It can be carried 
out and it must be carried out. Otherwise the growth of Russia's 
grandeur will be impeded. . . . 

Your Majesty has 130 million subjects. Our budget before the 
Emancipation amounted to 350 million rubles. The Emancipation 
enabled us to increase it to 1400 million. In proportion to our popu- 
lation, we could have a budget of 4200 million, if we were as wealthy 
as France, or a budget of 3300 million, if our economic prosperity 
were on a level with that of Austria-Hungary. Why is our tax- 
paying capacity so low? Chiefly because of the lamentable state of 
our peasantry. . . . 

The peasant was freed from his landowner. . . . But he is still 
a slave oFhis community as represented by the mir meetings and also 
of the entire hierachy of petty officials who make up the rural admin- 
istration. The peasant's rights and obligations are not clearly de- 
fined by lawi His welfare and his very person are at the mercy 
of the arbitrary rulings of the local administration. The peasant 
is still flogged, and that at the decision of such institutions as the 
volost (rural district) courts. . . . The peasant was given land. 
But his right to it is not clearly defined by law. Wherever the com- 
munal form of landownership prevails, he cannot even know which 
lot is his. The inheritance rights are regulated by vague customs. 
So that at present the peasant holds his land not by law, but by 
custom, and often by arbitrary discretion. The family rights of 
the peasants have remained almost completely outside of the scope 
of law. . . . 

The peasant was but slightly affected by the legal reform of Em- 
t peror Alexander II. Justice is meted out to him not by the common 
courts of the land, but by special rural courts on the basis of custom- 
ary law, or plainly speaking, by arbitrary discretion. The raising of 
taxes is no better organized. It is governed by the arbitrary will of 
the local administration. . . . The principle of mutual responsibility 
for taxes makes the individual peasant responsible for the whole com- 
munity and at times results in his complete irresponsibility. The 
zemstvos tax the peasants according to their own discretion, and the 
Government has no means of checking them if they choose to tax the 
peasant beyond his powers. Arbitrariness and confusion prevail also 



THE CZAR'S ATTEMPTS AT REFORM 213 

in the raising of the mir dues, which have lately shown a tendency 
to excessive growth. These taxes are entirely outside of the Govern- 
ment's control. 

And what of popular education? It is an open secret that it is 
in the embryonic stage and that in this respect we are behind not , 
only many European countries, but also many Asian and Transat- 
lantic lands. However this is not an unmitigated evil. There is 
education and education. What education could the people have 
received during the period of liberal aberrations, which extended 
from the 'sixties to the death of Alexander II (1881)? That 
education would have probably meant corruption. It is imperative, 
nevertheless, to push the cause of education, and this must be done 
energetically. From the fact that the child may fall and injure itself 
it would be erroneous to infer that it must not be taught how to walk. 
Only the education must be completely in the hands of the Govern- 
ment. . . . 

Thus, the peasantry, while personally free, is still a slave to 
arbitrariness, lawlessness, and ignorance. Under these circumstances 
the peasant loses the impulse to seek to improve his condition by 
lawful means. The vital nerve of progress is paralyzed in him. 
He becomes passive and spiritless, thus offering a fertile soil for the 
growth of vices. Single, even though substantial, measures will not 
remedy the situation. Above all, the peasant's spiritual energies must 
be aroused. He must be granted the plenitude of civil rights which I 
the other loyal sons of your Majesty enjoy. Given the present condi- 
tion of the peasantry, the State cannot advance and achieve the world- 
importance to which the nature of things and destiny itself entitle it. 

This condition of the peasantry is the fundamental cause of 
those morbid social phenomena which are always present in the 
life of our country. ... A great deal of attention is given to the 
alleged "land crisis." It is a strange crisis, indeed, seeing that 
prices of land are everywhere on the increase. Widespread discus- 
sion also centres around the comparative merits of the individual 
classes which go to make the nation. An effort is made to ascertain 
which of them supports the throne. As if the Russian Autocratic 
Throne could possibly rest on one class and not on the entire Russian 
people ! . . . On that unshakable foundation it will rest forever. . . 
The root of the evil is not the land crisis, or unorganized migrations, 
or the growth of the budget, but rather the confusion and disorder 
which prevail in the daily life of the peasant masses. . . In a word, 



214 

Sire, it is my profound conviction that the peasant problem is at 
present the most vital problem of our existence. It must be dealt 
with immediately. 

I do not know what impression my letter made on His 
Majesty. He did not answer it, and upon his return to 
St. Petersburg never referred to it. Thereupon, in response 
to Durnovo's report, His Majesty decreed that the afore- 
mentioned measure passed by the Committee of Ministers, 
and approved by himself, should only be carried into effect 
at his express order. That order was never given. Thus 
the Plehve-Durnovo clique again thwarted my effort to 
improve the peasant's lot by way of legislative reforms. 

I succeeded, however, in carrying out, in 1894, two re- 
forms which to a certain extent improved the legal status 
of the peasant class, namely, the abolition of mutual respon- 
sibility in taxation, and the mitigation of the passport 
regulations. 

When the peasants were emancipated, the mutual respon- 
sibility for direct taxes was introduced for purely fiscal 
purposes. The underlying principle was that it is easier to 
govern communities than individuals. Mutual responsi- 
bility meant in substance the responsibility of the thrifty 
for the shiftless, the hard workers for the idlers, the sober 
for the drunk. A crying injustice, it demoralized the popu- 
lation and undermined its conception of right and of civic 
responsibility. Since the Ministry of the Interior in its 
defence of mutual responsibility usually alleged the needs 
of the Ministry of Finances, I declared in the Imperial 
Council, in my capacity of Minister of Finances, that my 
Ministry was opposed to this principle. Then I submitted 
a project for the levying of taxes on the peasants, providing 
for the abolition of mutual responsibility and the transfer 
of the task of levying from the police to the agents of the 
Ministry of Finances, notably the tax inspectors. Goremy- 
kin, Minister of the Interior, insisted that this task should 



THE CZAR'S ATTEMPTS AT REFORM 215, 

be intrusted not to the tax inspectors, but to the rural police 
chiefs. The majority of the Imperial Council, however, 
supported my proposal. The next thing Goremykin did 
was to complain to His Majesty that I sought to lower the 
prestige of the rural police chief in the eyes of the peasants. 
Thereupon I wrote to the Emperor that should the project 
approved by the majority of the Imperial Council be re- 
jected I would be forced to tender my resignation. In the 
end mutual responsibility was abolished and the task of 
collecting the taxes from the peasants was imposed upon 
the tax inspectors. Nevertheless, the new law was not 
entirely free from provisions which betrayed the conviction 
of the legislator that peasants could not be treated like all 
the other elements of the population. 

The passport regulations, which tied the peasant hand 
and foot, were also defended on the ground of the financial 
benefit derived from the passport tax. I declared to the 
Imperial Council that the Ministry of Finances was willing 
to do without this benefit, and I laid before the Council a 
new passport law which to a considerable extent did away 
with the restrictions upon the freedom of the peasant's 
movements. The new law was passed, but at the instance 
of the Minister of the Interior it was modified so as to 
make it more conservative. When I was appointed presi- 
dent of the Council the Minister of the Interior elaborated 
a more liberal passport status, but for some reason it never 
became a law. 

When, in i9OO,_Sipyagin succeeded Goremykin as Min- 
ister of the Interior I impressed upon him the importance 
of the peasant problem. So long, I argued, as the peasant 
question remained unsolved in the liberal sense, on the basis 
of the principles of individual prosperity and personal free- 
dom, all the other reforms would be as a house built on 
sand. Sipyagin took up the matter with His Majesty, and 
as a result I was commissioned to form what was officially 



216 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

known as "The Special Conference on the Needs of the 
Agricultural Industry," i.e., a committee for the purpose 
of ascertaining the needs of the agriculturists and especially 
the peasants. The conference consisted of statesmen whose 
reputation for conservatism was beyond suspicion. There 
were among others: Count Vorontzov-Dashkov, Viceroy 
of the Caucasus; Adjutant General Chikhachev; Gerard, 
who was later appointed Governor-General of Finland; 
Prince Dolgorukov, Lord High Marshal, and Count 
Sheremetyev, His Majesty's master of the hunt. The con- 
ference lasted from January 22, 1902, to March 30, 1905, 
that is, upward of three years. In the course of an audience 
which I had with His Majesty, at the time when the con- 
ference had just been formed, he told me that he wished me 
to study and solve the peasant problem in the spirit of the 
principles which were carried out under Alexander II. The 
first year we spent in classifying and summing up the re- 
ports of the provincial and district committees. We hoped 
thus to gather a mass of information on which to base our 
solution of the peasant problem. The two types of local 
committees functioned under the presidency of Governors 
and Marshals of Nobility respectively, which circumstance 
naturally tended to restrict their freedom of discussion. 
Nevertheless, for the first time in many years, they pre- 
sented to the local population the opportunity to voice their 
opinions with comparative freedom. Both the Emperor 
and the Minister of the Interior expected that the com- 
mittees would attack the financial and economic policy of the 
Government and that these bodies would thus prove to be a 
trap for their own originator. To their surprise, however, 
the unanimous complaints of the committees were aimed at 
the internal policy of the Government, in general, and the 
legal disabilities which weighed down upon the peasantry, 
in particular. 

Three Ministers of the Interior succeeded each other 



THE CZAR'S ATTEMPTS AT REFORM 217 

during the existence of the conference. No sooner did the 
Agricultural Conference, supplied with the necessary fac- 
tual material, open its deliberations preparatory to taking 
practical steps, than Sipyagin was assassinated and Vyache- 
slav Konstantinovich von-Plehve appointed in his stead. He 
immediately visited his wrath on some of the leaders of 
the local committees who were too outspoken in the ex- 
pression of their opinions. Thus, Prince Dolgorukov, chair- 
man of the District Board of the Government of Kursk, 
was discharged, while Shcherbina, a well-known statistician, 
was exiled from the government of Voronezh. The small 
fry was treated even more unceremoniously. In endeavour- 
ing to intercede for a peasant who was arrested and exiled 
from the Tula province because of the opinions he expressed 
before one of the local committees, Count Leo Tolstoy 
accused me, not without some ground, of provocation. (His 
letter is filed in my records.) Then Plehve obtained His 
Majesty's permission to elaborate a system of laws and 
regulations relating to the peasants in a special conference 
attached to the Ministry of the Interior, and immediately 
proceeded to form another set of provincial committees 
under the presidency of provincial governors. The per- 
sonnel of these new committees was made up with great 
care, so as to include only men accustomed to say nothing 
but what pleased the authorities. As there was no direct 
decree forbidding the Agricultural Conference to deal with 
the needs of the peasant class, and as I was certain that the 
Plehve conference would come to nothing, I assumed an 
attitude of watchful expectation. In the meantime, my 
conference was studying general problems relating to grain 
commerce, railroads, small credit, etc. 

By a curious coincidence, Plehve met his fate in the same 
way as did his predecessor. As soon as he was assassinated 
and succeeded by Prince Svyatopolk-Mirski, a man of 
honour, but too weak for his responsible post, the Agricul- 



2i 8 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

tural Conference took up the various aspects of the peasant 
problem. A motion was made to recommend the abolition 
of the redemption payments, but my successor, Minister of 
Finances Kokovtzev, objected, and His Majesty decided to 
postpone the matter until the termination of the war. The 
redemption payments, be it mentioned in passing, were abol- 
ished in 1906 in my premiership, under the direct pressure 
of the revolutionary upheaval. The conference then at- 
tacked some other problems relating to the peasantry, the 
general tendency of the discussion being in favour of re- 
moving the burden of legal disabilities from the peasant. 
It is also noteworthy that the conference preferred the 
individual form of land ownership to the communal (obsh- 
chlna). I had the support of men whom no one would 
suspect of liberalism, while the opposition consisted of 
members of the court camarilla who later put themselves 
at the head of the Black Hundreds either openly or secretly. 
One of the members of the conference was Goremykin. 
Ostensibly, he sided with me, but behind my back he con- 
ducted an underhand plot against me with the aid of that 
office-hunter, Krivoshein, now member of the Imperial 
Council, and General Trepov. These plotters succeeded 
in persuading His Majesty that the conference was "unre- 
liable." As a result, one fine morning, March 30, 1905, 
to be exact, I was informed over the telephone by the direc- 
tor of one of the Departments of the Ministry of Finances 
that the Agricultural Conference had been closed by a 
special decree and that a new conference was formed under 
the presidency of Goremykin, and with the participation of 
men of his type. Although I was president of the confer- 
ence and a very active president too, this act came to me as 
a complete surprise. We were treated as if we were a revo- 
lutionary club. As late as two days before the publication 
of the decree dissolving the conference His Majesty ap- 
proved the minutes of its session. Of course, he never told 



THE CZAR'S ATTEMPTS AT REFORM 219 

me he was dissatisfied with the work of the conference, nor 
did he warn me of its dissolution. Afterwards he never 
referred to the conference. Such is His Majesty's char- 
acter. Yet, if the authorities had allowed the conference to 
complete its work, much of what happened later would have 
been avoided. The peasantry would not have been as 
deeply stirred up by the revolution as it actually was. The 
agrarian disturbances would have been greatly reduced in 
scope and violence, and many innocent lives saved. 

Naturally, Goremykin's conference failed to interest any- 
one, and resulted in nothing. As for our conference, it left 
behind a vast contribution to Russian economic literature in 
the form of memoranda written by competent members of 
local committees and well-digested systematic material re- 
lating to the various sides of Russia's economic life. The 
general impression an investigator derives from all this 
material is that in the years 1903-1904, one definite idea 
fermented the minds of the people, namely that to avoid 
the miseries of a revolution, it was necessary to carry out 
a number of liberal reforms in keeping with the spirit of the 
times. It was this feature of the activity of the conference 
that accounts for its dissolution. 

When the revolution broke out, the Government, in its 
agrarian policy, was forced to go much beyond what was 
projected by the Agricultural Conference. But it was too 
late. The peasant problem could no longer be solved by 
way of liberal reforms. It assumed an acute, a revolution- 
ary form. All revolutions occur because governments fail 
to satisfy in time the crying needs of the people and remain^ 
deaf to them. No Government can neglect these needs with 
impunity. For many years our Government kept blazoning 
forth with great pomp that it had the people's needs at 
heart, that it was constantly striving to render the peas- 
antry happy, etc., etc. All that was mere lip service. Since 
the death of Alexander II, the Government's treatment of 



220 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

the peasants has been determined by the representatives of 
the landed nobility at the court, and, as a result, the peas- 
antry is now assaulting the nobility, without distinguish- 
ing the right from the wrong. Such is the nature of man. 

The appointment of Prince Svyatopolk^Mirski as Minis- 
ter of the Interior opened an era of liberalism. Not that 
the prince was a liberal by conviction, or career, or birth. 
He was merely an intelligent, sober-minded man and a loyal 
servant of his monarch. Mirski opened his campaign for 
liberal reforms by submitting a report to His Majesty and 
appending to it a rough draft of a ukase decreeing a num- 
ber of liberal reforms. In December (1904) His Majesty 
called a conference at Tsarskoye Selo to discuss the prince's 
report. In addition to the Minister of the Interior, a lim- 
ited number of high officials were present. His Majesty, 
I was told, did not wish to invite me, but Svyatopolk- 
Mirski persuaded him to do so. 

His Majesty opened the conference by declaring that the 
revolutionary movement was on the increase and that it 
was necessary to decide whether the Government should 
meet the moderate element of society half-way or whether 
it should pursue the policy which brought about the assas- 
sination of two Ministers, Sipyagin and Plehve. I happened 
to be the first speaker. I expressed myself vigorously to 
the effect that persistence in the reactionary policy would 
lead us straight to ruin. The majority sided with me. 
Pobiedonostzev, naturally enough, assumed a critical atti- 
tude toward my views, but, as usual, he concluded his speech 
by declaring that it would be best to do nothing. Among 
other subjects, the conference discussed the restoration of 
the authority of law in the Empire, and also the abolition 
of the stringent regulations directed against the Old Be- 
lievers and of the other laws which are not in keeping with 
the principle of toleration and religious freedom. It was 
also pointed out that it was necessary to increase the author- 



THE CZAR'S ATTEMPTS AT REFORM 221 

ity and scope of the zemstvos and of the organs of munici- 
pal self-government. But the storm-centre of the debates 
was the question whether representatives elected by the 
people should be allowed to take part in the work of legis- 
lation. The majority spoke in favour of this measure. I 
expressed myself to the effect that our governmental order 
was out of keeping with the needs of the country and the 
consciousness of nearly all the intelligent classes of the 
population. Therefore, I said, I could welcome the pro- 
posed reforms. I did not wish, however, to conceal from 
His Majesty, I concluded, that the constant and regular 
participation of the representatives in legislative work was 
bound, in my opinion, to lead to what is known as a con- 
stitutional regime. As was usually the case with conferences 
conducted under His Majesty's presidency, the meeting 
came to no definite decision. The Emperor ordered Secre- 
tary of State Baron Nolde to draft, under my supervision, 
a decree in agreement with the prevalent views expressed at 
the conference. It was also decided that the projected 
reforms were to be discussed and elaborated by the Com- 
mittee of Ministers. 

The decree was drafted the following day and its defini- 
tive wording was discussed at a second conference, called 
on December 6th or yth. The final version included a 
rather vaguely worded provision for the regular admission 
of elected representatives to participation in the legislative 
activity of the government. This version was laid before 
His Majesty and, after some deliberation, he changed the 
article dealing with the representatives in the sense that 
they were to be elected not by the people but by the 
Government. Thereupon I was summoned before the Em- 
peror and asked what I thought of the modified article. 
I pointed out that, in its altered form, the article meant 
practically nothing, for the existing regulations provided 
for the participation of experts, summoned for the purpose, 



222 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

in the deliberations of the Imperial Council. I advised His 
Majesty to strike out the article from the decree alto- 
gether. If His Majesty entertained doubts, I observed, as 
to the advisability of summoning elected representatives 
and thus inaugurating what amounted to a constitutional 
regime it was best to drop the matter completely. His 
Majesty followed my advice, and the expurgated version 
of the ukase was signed and published on December 12, 
1904. 

The decree of December 12, 1904, imposed upon the 
Committee of Ministers the duty of elaborating the neces- 
sary measures tending to establish legality, extend freedom 
of speech, religious toleration and the scope of local self- 
government, to reduce the disabilities of the non-Russian 
national groups and to do away with all manner of extraor- 
dinary laws. The decree also emphasized the necessity 
of bringing to a satisfactory completion the work of the 
Agricultural Conference. The Committee of Ministers 
was to establish the general principle, while the detailed 
elaboration of each question was to be the task of special 
commissions appointed by the Emperor and responsible 
directly to him. In my capacity of President of the Com- 
mittee of Ministers, I did everything in my power to see 
the reforms outlined in the decree carried into effect with 
the greatest possible expediency and thoroughness. In 
every question I took the initiative and my staff supplied 
ample material pertaining to the particular subject under 
consideration. By speedily carrying out the decree of De- 
cember 12, I hoped to check the spread of discontent and 
unrest in the country. The obstacles I had to cope with 
were at first apathy, then intriguing on the part of the 
courtiers, and, all the time, His Majesty's profound distrust 
of the reforms outlined in the decree. To make a long 
story short, the results of the decree were practically a 
negligible quantity. The only legal measures enacted re- 



THE CZAR'S ATTEMPTS AT REFORM 223 

lated to religious toleration, the schools in the western 
provinces, and the legal status of the sectarians. 

The principles of legality established by the Committee 
of Ministers have never been carried into effect. I suc- 
ceeded in forming a conference for the revision of the cen- 
sorship regulations, with a membership which included men 
of high competence and moderately liberal views. Several 
days after the appointment of this body, His Majesty, 
without the knowledge of either myself or the chairman of 
the conference, named two new members : Prince Golitzyn- 
Muravlin, now member of the Union of the Russian People 
(Black Hundreds), and Yuzefovich, a notorious pervert 
and a man without honour. The conference achieved noth- 
ing. The conference on religious toleration met a similar 
fate, after having removed from the Old Believers some of 
the legal disabilities that had oppressed them for centuries. 
At heart, the Emperor always sided with these sectarians, 
but they had a powerful and stubborn enemy in the person 
of Pobiedonostzev, who for twenty-five years was an insur- 
mountable obstacle to the liberal solution of the sectarian 
problem. 

While the conference on religious toleration was discuss- 
ing the legal status of the sectarians, the Holy Synod raised 
the question of calling a church assembly and restoring the 
patriarchate, abolished by Peter the Great. Under the 
influence of K. P. Pobiedonostzev, the convocation of a 
church assembly was indefinitely postponed by His Majesty. 
At the same time the reactionary newspapers began to shout 
that Metropolitan Antonius, member of the Committee of 
Ministers, and I were intent on undermining the authority 
of the Czar, that by advocating the restoration of the patri- 
archate we sought to create two Czars, a civil and an ecclesi- 
astical one. After I had assumed the office of President 
of the Imperial Council, the question of convoking a church 
assembly was raised anew. A preliminary conference 



224 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

attached to the Synod was appointed for the purpose of 
elaborating the program of the convention. But with my 
resignation and Prince Obolensky's dismissal from the post 
of Procurator of the Holy Synod, the matter was again 
dropped. In my opinion, the greatest danger confronting 
Russia is the degeneration of the official Orthodox church 
and the extinction of the living religious spirit of the people. 
If Slavophilism has performed any real service to the coun- 
try, it is by emphasizing this truth as far back as fifty years 
ago. The present revolution has demonstrated it with 
exceptional clarity. No body politic can exist without higher 
spiritual ideals. These can only sway the masses if they 
are simple, lofty, and accessible to everyone, in a word, if 
they bear the imprint of the divine. Without a living 
church, religion becomes philosophy and loses its power to 
enter into the life of men and regulate it. Without religion 
the masses turn into herds of intelligent beasts. Our church 
has unfortunately long since become a dead, bureaucratic 
institution, and our priests serve not the high God of lofty 
Orthodoxy, but the earthly gods of paganism. Gradually 
we are becoming less Christian than the members of any 
other Christian church. We have less faith than any other 
nation. Japan has defeated us because she believes in her 
God incomparably more than we do in ours. This is just 
as true as the assertion that Germany owed her victory over 
France in 1870 to her school system. 

In pursuance of the decree of December 12, the Com- 
mittee of Ministers also discussed the labour problem, but 
did not go further than recommending the introduction of 
obligatory workers' insurance. With a view to carrying 
out the provisions of the decree, the Committee decided to 
call a convention of representatives from the provincial and 
district zemstvos and municipal dumas, and empower them 
to elaborate a new set of regulations relating to the zem- 
stvos and the organs of municipal self-government. The 



THE CZAR'S ATTEMPTS AT REFORM 225 

minutes of the session where the decision of the Committee 
was recorded in detail were signed by His Majesty, but the 
decision was never carried out. The Committee also stated 
that the arbitrary rule of the administration, in general, and 
"the extraordinary and reinforced rule," so-called, in par- 
ticular could not be tolerated. That rule was proclaimed 
early in the '8o's as a set of temporary regulations and has 
persisted until this very day, expanding geographically and 
growing in scope. Nothing, however, was accomplished in 
this direction. Finally, the Committee declared that the 
Jewish problem must at least receive a definite solution and 
that there was no solution except a gradual abolition of the 
Jewish disabilities. The Committee also advocated the 
idea that the Jewish question, in view of its acuteness, could 
not be solved without the participation of representatives 
from the population which lives now in contact with the 
Jews or which, with the abolition of the anti-Jewish restric- 
tions, will be brought in close contact with them. 

Seeing that no serious measures would be taken as a result 
of the decree of December I2th, I hastened, to His Maj- 
esty's visible satisfaction, to put an end to the activities of 
the Committee of Ministers in pursuance of the decree. 
Thus, a measure which could have become a blessing for the 
country proved useless, if not harmful. It clearly demon- 
strated to the intelligent classes that the Emperor and his 
Government were either unable or unwilling to grant re- 
forms. 

In the meantime, Prince Svyatopolk-Mirski lost his pres- 
tige in the Emperor's eyes and was succeeded by Bulygin, an 
apathetic, upright man and mediocre statesman, who owed 
his appointment to the fact that he had previously served 
as assistant to Grand Duke Sergey Alexandrovich, the Mos- 
cow General Governor. Shortly before, at the suggestion 
of Baron Frederichs, Minister of the Court, General Tre- 
pov was appointed Governor-General of St. Petersburg, 



226 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE' 

He was given this newly created important post because he 
had an imposing martial appearance and because, like Baron 
Frederichs, he had served in the Cavalry Guards, but above 
all because he had severely criticized Mirski's policy in His 
Majesty's presence. It is in the Emperor's nature to act 
like a pendulum, swinging between two extremes. There- 
upon, General Trepov, without resigning his Governor- 
Generalship, became, against Bulygin's will, associate Min- 
ister of the Interior with special privileges. Thus we had 
two Ministers of the Interior, or, more precisely, a dummy 
minister and a veritable dictator. No other term could 
describe the General's position and role. Trepov completely 
dominated His Majesty and enjoyed the favour of the Em- 
press, which favour he owed to the good offices of Her 
Majesty's sister, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna. 
It was during his dictatorship that the revolution of 1905- 
1906 gathered sufficient impetus to come to the surface. 

While Trepov wrote to His Majesty daily reports about 
matters relating to both our home affairs and foreign policy, 
Bulygin sat quietly in his office learning from the papers 
about the course of our internal policy, which he was nom- 
inally directing. It must be said that he bore his cross not 
without equanimity. When asked under what circumstance 
this or that measure was taken, he would answer with com- 
posure: "I do not know, have not been told yet," or: "I 
have just read about it in the papers myself." 

The only serious, though dead-born, reform with which 
Bulygin's name is associated is an attempt to create a parlia- 
mentary body with consultative powers. All the work in 
connection with this reform was done by the Council of 
Ministers, better known as the Solski Conference. Until 
October 17, 1905, there were two administrative bodies 
which sometimes acted in a legislative capacity, i.e., elab- 
orated legal measures previous to laying them before the 
Emperor, namely the Committee of Ministers and the 



THE CZAR'S ATTEMPTS AT REFORM 227 

Council of Ministers. The Council met very rarely, as a 
rule under the presidency of the Emperor. In January, 
1905, His Majesty convened the Council and at the end of 
the session remarked in a casual manner, speaking to Count 
Solski : "I beg you, Count, to call the Council for the dis- 
cussion of all the questions either raised by the ministers 
or pointed out by me." After that all the subjects relating 
to the projected reforms came under the jurisdiction of the 
Council, which became known as the Solski Conference. 
This body survived the reforms which followed the con- 
stitutional manifesto of October 17, 1905, and functioned 
alongside of the Imperial Council. It was this conference 
that raised again the question of admitting elected repre- 
sentatives to the legislative institutions. The measure re- 
ceived the support of Kokovtzev, among others. He de- 
clared that without this measure it would be difficult to 
contract the loan necessitated by the war. Bulygin, on his 
part, opined that the internal situation of the country made 
this reform an imperative necessity. As a result of this dis- 
cussion, His Majesty asked Bulygin to draft a rescript em- 
powering him, i.e., Bulygin, as the Minister of the Interior, 
to work out a plan of summoning representatives elected by 
the population to take part in the work of legislation. 

The next session, which was to take up Bulygin's draft of 
the rescript, was set for the following day, if I remember 
correctly. In the morning some of the members of the con- 
ference, including myself, met at a station on their way to 
Tsarskoye Selo, where the meetings took place. We were 
all greatly upset and indignant. The morning papers con- 
tained the text of a manifesto which had come to us as a 
complete surprise. Minister of Justice Manukhin explained 
that last night the manifesto was sent to him for publication. 
He had intended to observe all the prescribed formalities 
and promulgate the document through the Senate, but the 
chief of His Majesty's Chancery requested him in the Em- 



228 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

peror's name to publish the manifesto in the morning issue 
of the Governmental Messenger. Like all manifestoes, 
it overflowed with grandiloquent phrases, but in substance 
it was a variation on the old theme: "Everything will be 
as before; forget your vain dreams." No one knew who 
was the author of the manifesto. At Tsarskoye Selo we 
learned that the document had been submitted on the pre- 
vious day to Pobiedonostzev and enthusiastically com- 
mended by him. Later it became known that the manifesto 
had been transmitted to His Majesty by the Empress who, 
in her turn, had received it from Prince Putyatin. Who 
actually composed the document, I have been unable to 
ascertain. It was probably written by some Black Hundred 
leader. 

His Majesty appeared at the meeting with an air of perfect 
serenity, as if nothing had happened. I suspect that inter- 
nally he was greatly amused by our upset appearance. He 
was always fond of taking his counsellors by surprise. As 
he made no reference to the manifesto, Bulygin read his 
draft of the rescript, which provided for a more or less 
extensive participation of the people's representatives in 
legislation, thus inaugurating principles diametrically op- 
posed to the ones publicly and officially proclaimed several 
hours before. After a brief period of discussion, which 
bore mostly on the wording of the rescript, the luncheon 
recess was announced. As was usually the case, His Maj- 
esty took his luncheon with the Empress, apart from all the 
other members of the conference, who lunched together. 
In the course of the luncheon I remarked that those present 
would start an endless debate about the wording of the 
rescript and in the end it would fall through. But everyone 
was so indignant at the manifesto trick, that it was agreed 
to accept Bulygin's version without discussion. We kept 
our agreement, to His Majesty's great surprise. There was 
nothing left to him but to sign the rescript, which he did. 



THE CZAR'S ATTEMPTS AT REFORM 229 

Prince Hilkov was moved to tears, and Count Solski de- 
livered a brief speech overflowing with emotion and grati- 
tude. Thus, one and the same day witnessed the enactment 
of two diametrically opposed legislative measures. Under 
these circumstances, it is no wonder that the country under- 
went the trials of a revolution. Russia was and still is being 
played with like a toy. In the eyes of our rulers was not 
the Japanese campaign itself a war with toy soldiers? 

After that incident I no longer took any active part in 
the work on the Bulygin project. The Solski Conference 
approved its main outlines. After I left for the United 
States, the matter came up for final discussion before a con- 
ference, called at Peterhof under His Majesty's presidency. 
The gathering was attended, besides Count Solski, by sev- 
eral Grand Dukes and by such staunch supporters of con- 
servatism as Pobiedonostzev, Ignatyev, Naryshkin, member 
of the Imperial Council representing the nobility, Count 
Bobrinski, formerly Marshal of the St. Petersburg nobility, 
and others. On the 26th of August, 1905, a manifesto was 
published, together with a decree providing for the estab- 
lishment of an Imperial Duma. The decree defined this in- 
stitution, in substance, as follows: 

1. The Duma is a permanently functioning institu- 
tion, similar to western parliaments. 

2. All the laws and regulations, both permanent and 
provisional, as well as the budget, must be brought be- 
fore the Duma for discussion. 

3. The Duma is an exclusively consultative institu- 
tion, and it enjoys complete freedom in expressing its 
opinions on the subjects under discussion. 

4. The electoral law is based chiefly on the peas- 
antry, as the element of the population predominant 
numerically and most reliable and conservative from 



230 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

the monarchistic standpoint; the electoral law cannot 
be modified without the consent of the Duma. 

5. The franchise does not depend on nationality 
and religion. 

Such was this typical invention of our bureaucratic 
eunuchs. It had all the prerogatives of a parliament except 
the chief one. It was a parliament and yet, as a purely 
consultative institution, it was not a parliament. The law 
of August 6th satisfied no one. Nor did it in the least stem 
the tide of the revolution, which continued steadily to rise. 

During my absence in the United States the universities 
were granted autonomy. It was one of those sudden, ill- 
calculated acts which characterized the fitful course of the 
Government's policy. As a result, all the institutions of 
higher learning in St. Petersburg became the meeting-place 
of the revolutionists of various classes. Most extreme 
ideas of anarchism and militant socialism were preached at 
those meetings. The speeches of the orators were punc- 
tuated with outcries, "Down with the autocracy!" and sim- 
ilar revolting expressions directed against the head of the 
empire and the dynasty. The only thing the Government 
did was to throw around the university buildings a cordon 
of troops to prevent the revolutionary fire from spreading 
to the streets. The academic authorities, on their part, 
declared that the only way to put an end to the meetings 
was for the Government to permit the population to hold 
meetings elsewhere. According to these authorities, the 
students said that they considered it their duty to share 
their privilege (freedom of assemblage) with the rest of 
the citizens. Thus, the university autonomy was the first 
breach in the Government's fortifications, through which the 
revolution burst forth into the open. Soon afterwards the 
Government did issue a set of regulations relating to the 
right of assemblage, but the measure remained ineffective. 



THE CZAR'S ATTEMPTS AT REFORM 231 

The coordination of the work of the various ministries, 
by means of an institution not unlike a Cabinet of Ministers, 
was another problem which arose during my stay in 
America. It was also discussed in Count Solski's Confer- 
ence. I returned from the United States at the very be- 
ginning of the discussion and found the participants almost 
unanimous in recognizing the necessity of bringing unity 
into the actions of the ministers. Most strenuously opposed 
to this measure was the Minister of Finances, Kokovtzev, 
who, realizing that the plan entailed the appointment of 
a chairman or president of ministers and foreseeing that he 
could not possibly obtain this post for himself, did every- 
thing in his power to thwart the execution of the project, 
an attitude so very characteristic of this small-minded man. 
The rest of those -who objected to the measure did so 
neither on account of disapproval of the general idea nor, 
like Kokovtzev, for personal reasons, but because they 
feared that the existence of a body with such a powerful 
functionary at its head would tend to impair the prestige 
of the Emperor in the eyes of the people. Finally the con- 
ference decided to set up a Council of Ministers to take the 
place of the existing council, established in accordance with 
a decree promulgated in the reign of Alexander II, which 
had provided that the Emperor himself should be its presi- 
dent. As previously mentioned, Nicholas II had, however, 
given this office to Count Solski in contravention of the 
law. 

The new decree, having been elaborated, was put into 
force by the Emperor shortly before October iyth and 
actually did unite the ministers to a certain extent, although 
everything that had resulted from Count Solski's Confer- 
ences was vague and fragmentary, largely because of the 
compromises to which the count liked to resort in order not 
to trouble the Emperor with controversies. To avoid the 
suggestion of a liberal western constitution, Solski called 



232 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

the new body Council of Ministers instead of Cabinet. I 
was appointed its first Presiding Minister. Now, as an or- 
ganization called a council had previously been in existence, 
everything enacted by it, such as Bulygin's Duma law, was 
attributed to me. Even to this day the great majority of 
the public makes no distinction between the present council 
and the former council, which sometimes was out of session 
for years at a stretch. 

Although the need of coordination was the ostensible 
cause of the formation of the new council and the abolition 
of the old, I have reason to believe that the change was 
due largely to the fact that Count Solski, perceiving that 
the turbulence of the masses was increasing rapidly and that 
the storm was about to break, desired to retire into ob- 
scurity and thus be relieved of the burdensome responsi- 
bilities attached to the role of presiding over the former 
council in the Emperor's stead. This desire is not only 
comprehensible, but also pardonable, since the count had 
been an invalid for many years he was even unable to 
walk. Indeed, under the circumstances, it is astounding 
that he should have been able to hold all the important and 
highly responsible offices with which he was entrusted and 
which included those of President of the Imperial Council, 
chairman of the Financial Committee and President of the 
Council of Ministers. Because of his weak will and poor 
health, he had lately been much under the influence of his 
numerous assistants and secretaries. 

By the end of September, the militant revolution was so 
far advanced that the question "What should be done?" 
assumed extraordinary urgency. During the first half of 
the following month the political events developed with 
astonishing rapidity, culminating in the publication of the 
constitutional manifesto of October 17. Here is the text 
of that historical document: 

Unrest and disturbances in the capitals and in many regions of 



THE CZAR'S ATTEMPTS AT REFORM 233 

our Empire fill our heart with a great and heavy grief. The welfare 
of the Russian Sovereign is inseparable from the welfare of the people, 
and their sorrow is his sorrow. The unrest now arisen may cause a 
profound disorder in the masses and become a menace to the integrity 
and unity of the Russian State. The great vow of Imperial service 
enjoins us to strive with all the might of our reason and authority 
to put an end within the shortest possible time to this unrest so 
perilous to the State. Having ordered the proper authorities to 
take measures for the suppression of the direct manifestations of 
disorder, rioting, and violence, and for the protection of peaceful 
people who seek to fulfil in peace the duties incumbent upon them, 
We, in order to carry out more effectively the measures outlined by us 
for the pacification of the country, have found it necessary to unify 
the activity of the higher Government agencies. 

We impose upon the Government the obligation to execute our 
inflexible will: 

1. To grant the population the unshakable foundations of civic 
freedom on the basis of real personal inviolability, freedom of con- 
science, of speech, of assemblage, and of association. 

2. Without stopping the appointed elections to the Imperial 
Duma, to admit to participation in the Duma those classes of the 
population which have hitherto been deprived of the franchise, in 
so far as this is feasible in the brief period remaining before the 
convening of the Duma, leaving the further development of the 
principle of general suffrage to the new legislative order (i. e., the 
Duma and Imperial Council established by the law of August 6, 

1905). 

3. To establish it as an unshakable rule that no law can become 
effective without the sanction of the Imperial Duma and that the 
people's elected representatives should be guaranteed a real partici- 
pation in the control over the lawfulness of the authorities appointed 
by us. 

We call upon all the faithful sons of Russia to remember their 
duty to their country, to lend assistance in putting an end to the un- 
precedented disturbances and together with us make every effort to 
restore quiet and peace in our native land. 

Simultaneously there was published my report addressed 
to His Majesty in reply to his order requesting me, in my 
capacity of president of the Committee of Ministers, to 



234 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

unify the activity of the ministers. The text of the report 
follows : 

The unrest which has seized the various classes of the Russian 
people cannot be looked upon as the consequence of the partial imper- 
fections of the political and social order or as the result of the activi- 
ties of organized extreme parties. The roots of that unrest lie deeper. 
They are in the disturbed equilibrium between the aspirations of the 
thinking elements and the external forms of their life. Russia has 
outgrown the existing regime and is striving for an order based on 
civic liberty. Consequently, the forms of Russia's political life must 
be raised to the level of the ideas which animate the moderate 
majority of the people. 

The first task of the Government is immediately to establish 
the basic elements of the new order, notably personal inviolability 
and the freedom of the press, of conscience, of assemblage, and of 
association, without waiting for the legislative sanction of these meas- 
ures by the Imperial Duma. The further strengthening of these 
foundations of the political life of the country must be effected in 
the regular legislative procedure, just as the work of equalizing all 
the Russian citizens, without distinction of religion and nationality, 
before the law. It goes without saying that the civic liberties granted 
to the people must be lawfully restricted, so as to safeguard the 
rights of the third persons and peace and the safety of the State. 

The next task of the Government is to establish institutions and 
legislative principles which would harmonize with the political ideals 
of the majority of the Russian people and which would guarantee 
the inalienability of the previously granted blessings of civic liberty. 
The economic policy of the Government must aim at the good of the 
broad masses, at the same time safeguarding those property and civil 
rights which are recognized in all the civilized countries. 

The above-outlined foundations of the Government's activity will 
necessitate a great deal of legislative and administrative work. A 
period of time is bound to elapse between the enunciation of a prin- 
ciple and its embodiment in legislative norms or, furthermore, the 
introduction of these norms into the life of the people and the prac- 
tice of the Governmental agents. No Government is able at once 
to force a new political regime upon a vast country with a heteroge- 
neous population of 135 million, and an intricate administration 
brought up on other principles and traditions. It is not sufficient 
for the Government to adopt the motto of civic liberty to inaugurate 



THE CZAR'S ATTEMPTS AT REFORM 235 

the new order. Alone the untiring and concerted efforts of a homo- 
geneous Government, animated by one aim and purpose, will bring 
it about. 

The situation demands that the Government should only use meth- 
ods testifying to the sincerity and frankness of its intentions. Conse- 
quently, the Government must scrupulously refrain from interfering 
with the elections to the Imperial Duma, and also sincerely strive 
to carry out the reforms outlined in the decree of December 12, 
1904. The Government must uphold the prestige of the future 
Duma and have confidence in its work. So long as the Duma's 
decisions are not out of keeping with Russias's grandeur, the result 
of the age-long process of her history, the Government must not 
oppose them. In accordance with the letter and spirit of his 
Majesty's manifesto, the regulations relating to the Imperial Duma 
are subject to further development, in proportion as the imperfections 
of that institution come to light and as new demands arise. Guided 
by the ideas prevalent among the people, the Government must for- 
mulate these demands, constantly striving to satisfy the desires of 
the masses. It is very important to reconstruct the Imperial Council 
on the basis of the principle of elected membership, for that alone will 
enable the Government to establish normal relations between that 
institution and the Imperial Duma. 

Without enumerating the other measures to be taken by the Gov- 
ernment, I wish to state the following principles which, I believe, 
must guide the authorities at all the stages of their activity : 

1. Frankness and sincerity in the establishment of all the newly 
granted rights and privileges. 

2. A firm tendency toward the elimination of extraordinary regu- 
lations. 

3. Coordination of the activities of all the Governmental agents. 

4. Avoidance of measures of repression directed against acts which 
do not threaten either Society or the State, and 

5. Firm suppression of all actions menacing Society or the State, 
in strict accordance with the law and in spiritual union with 
the moderate majority of the people. 

It goes without saying that the accomplishment of the outlined 
tasks will only be possible with the broad and active cooperation of 
the public and on the condition of peace, which alone will enable the 
Government to apply all its forces to fruitful work. We have faith 
in the political tact of the Russian people. It is unthinkable that 



236 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

the people should desire anarchy, which, in addition to all the horrors 
of civil war, holds the menace of the disintegration of the very 
State." 

While these two documents, which saw the light of day 
simultaneously, are identical in spirit and general tendency, 
they are badly coordinated and vary greatly in scope. The 
question arises, why did His Majesty find it advisable to 
issue two statements instead of expressing his will in one 
pronouncement? This and a number of other questions 
bearing upon the origin of the manifesto are answered by 
the subjoined memorandum on the manifesto of October 17, 
1905 [see Chapter IX], written early in January, 1907. 
I composed it in order to nail to the barndoor the legend 
current among the court circles to the effect that I had 
forced the manifesto upon the unwilling monarch. It is 
a concise and scrupulously accurate history of the eleven 
days which preceded the publication of the manifesto. In 
another place I have told how I submitted it to His 
Majesty and how meanly he acted in this matter. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE MANIFESTO OF OCTOBER 17, 1905 

IN view of the outbreak of deep unrest in all parts of 
Russia, especially in St. Petersburg and some other large 
cities, during September and the early part of October, 
1905, following upon several years of continual ferment 
and political assassinations, Count Witte, the President of 
the Committee of Ministers, on the 6th of October, 1905, 
asked His Majesty to receive him and hear an analysis of 
the extremely alarming situation then existing. This re- 
quest was made at the urgent instance of Count Solski, the 
President of the Imperial Council. On the 8th of October 
His Majesty wrote to Count Witte, stating that it had been 
his intention to summon him to discuss the actual state of 
affairs and directing him to come on the next day, the 9th 
of October, at about six o'clock in the evening. 

On the 9th of October the President of the Committee 
of Ministers appeared before His Majesty and presented 
a hastily prepared memorandum, in which he expressed his 
views regarding conditions. At the same time he pointed 
out that in his opinion there were two courses of action: 
either to adopt the method outlined in his communication, 
orally submitted on that occasion, or to invest with complete 
power a responsible person (a dicator), who, with unre- 
mitting energy, might by dint of physical force suppress the 
turbulence in all its manifestations. For this task, he re- 
marked, it would be necessary to select a man of resolute 
character and military training. He added that though the 
first measure seemed to him the more appropriate, his judg- 

237 



238 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

ment might very well be erroneous, and, therefore, it would 
be desirable to consider this problem in conference with 
other government officials and with the members of the 
Imperial family, whom this matter might touch very closely. 
His Majesty, having listened to Count Witte, refrained 
from revealing his opinion. 

On returning from Peterhof, Count Witte, together with 
N. I. Vuich, at that time temporary chairman of the Com- 
mittee of Ministers, reexamined the rapidly drafted report 
which had been presented to His Majesty, and made a few 
corrections, adding at the end that there was another way 
out : to breast the current, but that it would have to be done 
resolutely and systematically. Stating that he doubted the 
success of such a course, but that he was perhaps mistaken, 
he went on to say that in any case the fulfillment of this or 
the other line of action should be undertaken only by one 
who had complete faith in it. 

The next day, October loth, at three o'clock in the after- 
noon, Count Witte again had the honour of appearing be- 
fore the Emperor, and, in the presence of Her Majesty, 
Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, related all his conclusions 
in detail, explaining the addition to his note and at the same 
time reviewing the alternate plan, which he had already 
laid before the Emperor. Their Majesties did not express 
their opinions, but His Imperial Majesty remarked that per- 
haps it would be best to publish the substance of the report 
in the form of a manifesto. 

During the I2th and I3th of October Count Witte had 
no news from Peterhof. At about this time during one of 
the conferences at Count Solski's the discussion turned, 
among other things, to the very dangerous situation due to 
the turmoil, which was fast becoming a revolt, whereupon 
Adjutant-General Likhachov and Count Palen asserted 
their firm conviction that above all it was necessary to crush 
by force of arms every sign of turbulence. Count Witte 



MANIFESTO OF OCTOBER 17, 1905 239 

did not hesitate to inform His Majesty of this fact in a 
special note, recommending at the same time that officials 
with such beliefs should be given a hearing. Some time 
afterwards Adjutant-General Likhachov inquired of Count 
Witte whether it was not at his suggestion that the Em- 
peror had been good enough to summon him, to which Count 
Witte answered that he could not say, but that he had, in- 
deed, considered it his duty to notify His Majesty that some 
of the functionaries had formed a clear conception of the 
course of action required by existing conditions, and that in 
his estimation it would doubtless be very helpful for His 
Majesty to give them an audience. On the nth and I2th 
of October, Count Witte was told, his program was brought 
up for discussion; and on the i3th he received the follow- 
ing telegram from the Emperor: 

"Until the confirmation of the Cabinet Law, I direct 
you to coordinate the activities of the ministers, whom I 
instruct to restore order everywhere. Only in the tranquil 
current of the Empire's life will it be possible for the Gov- 
ernment to cooperate in constructive work with the future 
freely chosen representatives of my people." 

By reason of this message Count Witte again went to 
Peterhof on the morning of the i4th and insisted that it 
would be impossible to allay the unrest merely through 
uniting the ministers holding different views, and that cir- 
cumstances demanded the adoption of resolute measures in 
either of the directions already indicated. On this occasion, 
due to His Majesty's previous remark as to the desirability 
of publishing the substance of the note in a manifesto, 
Count Witte laid before His Majesty a summary of his 
report with a foreword explaining that the abstract had 
been drawn up at the order and direction of His Majesty, 
to whom it would be presented for official sanction in case 
it met with approval. As for the publication of a manifesto, 
which is proclaimed in all the churches, Count Witte pointed 



240 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

out that it was unadvisable to go into the necessary details 
in such a document, whereas it would be quite prudent to do 
so in an imperially sanctioned report, which would imply 
nothing more than the simple approbation by the Emperor 
of the program outlined therein, no responsibility devolving 
upon His Majesty in this way, since the burden of recom- 
mending the measures would fall upon Count Witte. 

At this time in St. Petersburg, just as in many other 
municipalities, the strike of factory workers, as well as the 
employes of the railways and other public service utilities, 
was in full swing, so that the city was left without light, 
business facilities, street car and telephone service and rail- 
way communication. This state of affairs and the above- 
mentioned telegram from the Emperor led Count Witte 
to call at his house a conference of some of the ministers, 
including General Rediger, General Trepov, Assistant Min- 
ister of the Interior and Governor-General of St. Peters- 
burg, and Prince Hilkov, Minister of Railways, in order to 
discuss the steps to be taken for reestablishing St. Peters- 
burg's rail connections, even though only with neighbouring 
points. At this meeting the Minister of War and General 
Trepov, who was in command of the St. Petersburg gar- 
rison, affirmed that although there were sufficient forces in 
the city to suppress an armed uprising, should such occur 
there and in the nearby residence of the Emperor, not 
enough troops were available to restore railway traffic even 
between St. Petersburg and Peterhof. In a general way the 
Minister of War stated that, in addition to the regular 
military units, there had been ordered into the active army a 
large number of soldiers and officers who had been retained 
in European Russia. The forces were at the time filled up 
with men from the reserve, among whom general dissatis- 
faction had arisen because they had been kept in the army 
after the conclusion of peace. This circumstance, together 



MANIFESTO OF OCTOBER 17, 1905 241 

with the lengthy period of service, had in large measure 
demoralized the troops of the Empire. 

During the evening of the I4th, Prince Orlov informed 
Count Witte by telephone from Peterhof that he was asked 
to attend a conference called by His Majesty for the I5th 
at eleven o'clock in the morning, and that he should take 
along a draft of the manifesto, since it was essential that 
"everything should come from the Emperor personally and 
that the reforms sketched in the report should be trans- 
ferred from the sphere of promises into the field of actual- 
ities granted by the Emperor." Although he judged it safer 
not to go beyond an Imperial sanction of his report and 
hoped that there would be no need of a manifesto, Count 
Witte, feeling ill that evening, requested Prince A. D. 
Obolensky, a member of the Imperial Council, who hap- 
pened to be his guest at the time, to draw up a plan of the 
manifesto for the next morning. 

Inviting Prince Obolensky and the chairman of the Com- 
mittee of Ministers to accompany him, Count Witte again 
set out for Peterhof on the morning of October i6th. 
Baron Frederichs, the Court Minister, was travelling on the 
same steamer. In the presence of these people Prince Obo- 
lensky read his draft of the manifesto. Count Wjitte made 
a few observations, but, as they were nearing Peterhof at 
the moment, he asked Prince Obolensky and Vuich to try to 
formulate a more or less final version of the manifesto on 
the basis of their conversation, while he himself went to 
the court with Baron Frederichs. There he met Grand 
Duke Nikolai Nikolaievich and General Rediger. At 
eleven o'clock His Majesty received these four persons and 
directed Count Witte to read the report previously men- 
tioned. Then Count Witte stated that to the best of his 
knowledge and belief there were but two ways out of exist- 
ing difficulties, either to institute a dictatorship or to grant a 
constitution, on the road to which His Majesty had already 



242 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

started with the manifesto of August 6th and the subsequent 
decrees. His report recommended the second method, 
which, if sanctioned, must lead to the legislative enactment 
of measures that would broaden the law of August 6th and 
inaugurate a constitutional regime. During the reading 
Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaievich, with His Majesty's per- 
mission, asked a great many questions, in answer to which 
Count Witte gave detailed explanations, adding, in con- 
clusion, that he did not expect quiet to return quickly after 
such a bitter war and such wild turmoil, but that the second 
course promised to accomplish this result sooner. 

At the termination of the report the Emperor asked 
Count Witte whether he had prepared a manifesto. Count 
Witte replied that during the trip to Peterhof he had exam- 
ined a draft of the manifesto, which was then being revised; 
but that in his opinion it would be more expedient for the 
Government to limit themselves to a sanction of the report 
he had just read. At one o'clock His Majesty dismissed all 
those present, instructing them to return at three and direct- 
ing Count Witte to bring the proposed manifesto. 

The conference was resumed at three o'clock and, after 
a continuation of the exchange of ideas regarding the re- 
port, Count Witte read the draft of the manifesto. None 
of those present raised any objections. 

On the evening of October i6th Baron Frederichs gave 
Count Witte to understand that he would visit him to dis- 
cuss the manifesto. The Baron, together with the Director 
of his Chancery, General Mosolov, arrived after midnight 
and said that His Majesty, aside from conferring with those 
present at the meeting the previous day, had advised with 
others and that Goremykin and Budberg, members of the 
Imperial Council, had formulated two plans for the mani- 
festo, with which the Emperor had commissioned them to 
acquaint Count Witte. In the first place Count Witte in- 
quired whether all this was known to General Trepov, who 



MANIFESTO OF OCTOBER 17, 1905 243 

controlled the police of the entire Empire and shouldered 
the responsibility for the outward order of the country, 
so that any comprehensive measure, if not confided to him 
beforehand, might result in very unpleasant events. Baron 
Frederichs replied that he was so late precisely because he 
had been at General Trepov's to inform him of everything. 
Then he presented the two drafts * to Count Witte, who 
observed that the sketch drawn to his attention as the more 
suitable was unacceptable to him for two reasons: first, on 
account of its direct announcement that His Majesty 
granted all the privileges from the day of its publication, 
whereas in his project the Emperor merely asked the Gov- 
ernment to carry out his determined desire to confer these 
liberties, thus presupposing preliminary work by the Gov- 
ernment; secondly, because of its omission of many impor- 
tant provisions outlined in his report and because of its 
incompatibility with the simultaneous publication of the 
report, the soundness and power of whose principles would 
at once be subject to doubt. For these reasons he requested 
Baron Frederichs to declare to the Emperor that in his 
opinion as he had already pointed out, it was unnecessary 
to publish a manifesto, but that it was sufficient and more 
prudent to proclaim His Majesty's approbation of the re- 
port. To this the Baron retorted that the question as to 
whether or not the reforms suggested in the report should 
be announced to the people in the shape of a manifesto had 
been decided once and for all. Upon hearing this reply, 
Count Witte asked Baron Frederichs to tell His Majesty 
that, since the office of President of the Cabinet must be 
conferred upon a person with an acceptable program and 
he felt that His Majesty entertained certain doubts as to 
the accuracy of his judgment in this matter, it would, under 
the circumstances, be advisable to abandon any idea of ap- 

These drafts were taken away by Baron Frederichs and I was unable to get 
possession of them again. 



244 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

pointing him prime minister; furthermore, in the event of 
the final rejection of the plan of selecting a dictator to sup- 
press the unrest by force, to choose a man with a more 
satisfactory policy for the task of coordinating the activities 
of the ministers. He added that if the manifestoes he had 
just read were recognized as adequate, one of the authors 
should in his estimation be appointed President of the Cab- 
inet. In conclusion Count Witte requested Baron Fred- 
erichs to report to His Majesty that in case of need, as he 
had already stated to the Emperor, he was ready to serve 
the common cause in a secondary capacity, even though it be 
as governor of a province. 

The next day, the iyth of October, Count Witte was 
again summoned to Peterhof, and, on arriving, he immedi- 
ately went to Baron Frederichs. The Baron informed him 
that it had been decided to accept his draft for the mani- 
festo and to sanction the report presented by him, adding 
that this decision had the unqualified support of Grand 
Duke Nikolai Nikolaievich, who had affirmed that on ac- 
count of the lack of troops it was impossible to institute a 
military dictatorship. 

At about six o'clock Count Witte and Baron Frederichs 
went to the palace, the Baron taking with him the manifesto, 
which had been copied in his office. Grand Duke Nikolai 
Nikolaievich was in the palace. His Majesty signed the 
manifesto and sanctioned Count Witte's report in their 
presence. Both of these documents were announced to the 
people on the same day with the knowledge of General 
Trepov. 

I have in my possession two other memoirs relating to 
the period covered in my memorandum and written respec- 
tively by N. I. Vuich, formerly secretary of the Council of 
Ministers and now senator, and Prince N. D. Obolensky, 
His Majesty's secretary and practically associate Minister 



MANIFESTO OF OCTOBER 17, 1905 245 

of the Court. These two men had an exceptional oppor- 
tunity to observe the inner court circles and they were 
abreast of all that was happening around the Emperor in 
those critical days. It is, therefore, gratifying for me to 
find that their story tallies in every respect with my own 
account of the events which led up to the act of October 17. 

I shall now relate some of the episodes and state some of 
the thoughts, for which there was no room in my Memoran- 
dum in view of its conciseness and purely factual character. 

I was struck by the indifference to the fate of the country 
and the dynasty, which the Grand Dukes displayed during 
those decisive days. Nikolai Nikolaievich was out hunt- 
ing in his estate and did not arrive in St. Petersburg until 
the 1 5th, while Peter Nikolaievich was staying in the 
Crimea. I am certain, however, that had any member of 
the Imperial family shown an active interest in the political 
situation and made an attempt to direct the course of events, 
he would have been politely told to mind his own business. 

When His Majesty for the first time referred to the 
manifesto, I assumed an attitude toward it which was at 
first one of skepticism and later became one of decisive 
hostility. I feared that it might defeat its purpose and 
throw the country into a confusion worse confounded in- 
stead of pacifying it. Nor did I have faith in the efficacy 
of a dictatorship. If I did hope for it internally, it was, 
I confess, for purely selfish reasons. A dictatorship would, 
of course, deliver me from the necessity of assuming the 
reins of power. I had no illusions as to the thanklessness of 
the task. I knew that should I succeed I would be destroyed 
because the Court would be afraid of my success, and that, 
should I fail, friend and foe would be equally glad to fall 
upon me and undo me. Afterwards I found out the reason 
why His Majesty insisted on issuing a manifesto. As a 
matter of fact, he had been persuaded by his satellites that 
I was aiming at becoming neither more nor less than the 



246 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

first President of the All-Russian Republic. This assertion 
of mine may appear fantastic, but it is nevertheless true. 
I was seeking, His Majesty was told, to associate my own 
name, and not his, with the measures which were to pacify 
the Empire. To thwart my evil plans, it was necessary to 
publish the manifesto. "Let us make use of Witte's ideas; 
later on we can get rid of him." That is how, I imagine, 
the Emperor's intimate counsellors argued. 

While negotiating with me, His Majesty was secretly 
conferring with other statesmen. In fact, he simultaneously 
conducted two independent sets of conferences with two 
political groups holding strongly opposed views and headed 
respectively by myself and Goremykin, the man who was 
destined to succeed me as Prime Minister. This double- 
dealing exasperated me. It was clear to me that even in 
these critical circumstances His Majesty was incapable of 
playing fair. Had Emperor Nicholas in those decisive days 
acted with uprightness and good faith, as behooves a Rus- 
sian Czar, much misunderstanding and misery would have 
been avoided. Had Goremykin and I been given a chance 
for an open and frank exchange, of opinions, the common 
feeling of responsibility would have surely compelled us to 
take a more or less balanced decision, in spite of the wide 
divergence of our political views and sympathies. But as 
we were engaged in a hide-and-seek game, events were nat- 
urally developing by fits and starts, and documents of his- 
toric importance were drawn up hurriedly and without the 
care and caution which the significance of the subject 
demanded. 

On October 16 I had a telephonic conversation with 
Baron Frederichs. It had come to my knowledge, I told 
him, that conferences were taking place in Peterhof with 
Goremykin and Baron Budberg, and that a number of 
alterations in my version of the manifesto were being con- 
templated. I had nothing against these changes, I assured 



MANIFESTO OF OCTOBER 17, 1905 247 

him, but should they be effected His Majesty would have 
to abandon the idea of putting me at the head of the Gov- 
ernment. I reiterated that, in my judgment, it was entirely 
unnecessary at this time to publish anything in the nature of 
a public manifesto. The baron gave me his assurance that 
the contemplated changes related exclusively to the wording 
of the document and were altogether insignificant. He 
promised to show me the altered version in the evening. 
W'hen the baron came to me, it was past midnight, I 
found that the suggested changes were so substantial that 
in reality there were two different versions of the mani- 
festo. I decided to put an end to this unworthy game. 
With my customary bluntness, I asked the baron to inform 
His Majesty that I flatly refused to accept any version of 
the manifesto which did not agree with my program, and 
that if he did not have sufficient confidence in me he had 
better put at the head of the Government one of the men 
with whom he was having secret conferences. I was in a 
rather excited state when the baron left me. Remaining 
alone, I prayed to the Most High that He should deliver 
me from this tangle of cowardice, blindness, craftiness, and 
stupidity. 

Here is what Baron Frederichs told me the next morn- 
ing, when I came to see him at Peterhof : "This morning 
I repeated to His Majesty the conversation I had with you 
last night. He made no reply. He was apparently waiting 
for Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaievich. I left him. As 
soon as I returned to my quarters, the Grand Duke came to 
see me. I told him what had happened, concluding my story 
with these words: 'It is necessary to set up a dictatorship 
and you must be appointed dictator.' In reply he produced 
a revolver from his pocket and said: 'Do you see this fire- 
arm? I will now go to the Emperor and beg him to sign 
the manifesto and Witte's program. He will either do 
it, or I will blow my brains out with this very weapon!' 



248 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

With these words he left me. After a while the Grand 
Duke returned and transmitted to me His Majesty's order 
to prepare clean copies of the manifesto and your report 
and, when you come here, to take these documents to the 
Emperor who will sign them." 

I understood then that there was no way out for me. 
The same morning General Mosolov, Director of the Chan- 
cery of the Court Ministry, had a conversation with Baron 
Frederichs just after the end of the latter's interview with 
the Grand Duke. General Mosolov afterwards reported 
to me the substance of the baron's words. "All the while," 
the baron said, "I was hoping that the situation would end 
in a dictatorship, with Grand Duke Nikolai Nikola-ievich 
as the natural dictator, for it seemed to me that he was 
brave and absolutely devoted to the Emperor. Now I find 
that I was mistaken. He is a mean-spirited and unbalanced 
man. Everyone shirks the responsibilities of a dictatorship; 
we have all lost our heads, and so we must give in to Witte, 
whether we like it or not." 

For a long time I did not know why the Grand Duke 
was so resolutely in favour of the act of October 17. I was 
sure, of course, that he had not been prompted either by 
liberalism or by an understanding of the country's internal 
state. His sympathies had always been with autocracy of 
the most unlimited and arbitrary character. As for his 
rational powers, they had long since been befogged by an 
inordinate passion for occultism. At any rate, I was con- 
vinced that, whatever may have been the precise reason, 
cowardice and mental confusion played an important part 
in determining the course of the Grand Duke's actions. 
P. N. Durnovo, who was unusually well informed about a 
variety of confidential matters for the reason that he was 
in charge of the perlustration division of the Ministry of 
the Interior, told me, in' 1907, that the Grand Duke's atti- 
tude toward the constitutional manifesto was to be ac 



MANIFESTO OF OCTOBER 17, 1905 249 

counted for by the influence exerted upon him in those days 
by a certain Ushakov, a labour leader. I knew this man 
as one of the few workmen who did not lose their heads 
during the revolutionary days and who refused to join the 
Soviet in 1905. I had a talk with him and at my request 
he composed a memorandum for me, describing his relations 
with Nikolai Nikolaievich and, in general, the role he 
played in the October days. According to this document, 
which is in my possession, Ushakov had gained access to 
the Grand Duke through Prince Andronnikov and a certain 
Naryshkin, and on the eve of October 17, 1905, Ushakov 
had an interview with him, in the course of which he insisted 
on the granting of a constitution as the only way out of the 
critical situation. I have told elsewhere how short-lived 
was the Grand Duke's affection for the new-born Russian 
constitution. A few weeks after the publication of the 
manifesto I learned that he was conspiring with the head of 
the Black Hundred Party, the ill-famed Dubrovin. 



CHAPTER X 

BLOODY SUNDAY AND THE FIRST SOVIET 

IN the early days of the Russo-Japanese war, General 
Kuropatkin on one occasion reproached Plehve, I recollect, 
with having been the only Minister to desire the Russo- 
Japanese war and make common cause with the clique of 
political adventurers who had dragged the country into it. 
"Alexey Nikolayevich (i.e., Kuropatkin)," retorted Plehve, 
"you are not familiar with Russia's internal situation. We 
need a little victorious war to stem the tide of revolution." 

History made a mockery of the calculations of Plehve 
and his like. Instead of enhancing the prestige and increas- 
ing the physical resources of the regime, the war, with its 
endless misery and disgrace, completely sapped the system's 
vitality and laid bare its utter rottenness before the eyes of 
Russia and of the world generally, so that the population, 
whose needs had been neglected for many years by a corrupt 
and inefficient government, finally lost its patience and fell 
into a state of indescribable confusion. 

I shall begin my narrative of the revolutionary upheaval 
of 1905-1906 with my reminiscences relating to the events 
of January 9, 1905, a day which in the annals of the Russian 
revolution is known as .Bloody Sunday. 

A certain Sergey Zubatov, a notorious agent-provocateur, 
is responsible for the idea of combatting the revolution by 
applying the principle of "knock out one wedge with an- 
other." He inaugurated a system which aimed at fighting 
the revolution with its own weapons and tactics, and which 

250 



THE FIRST SOVIET 251 

might be described as police socialism. The revolutionists 
are winning over the workmen to their side by preaching 
the doctrine of the socialistic millennium to them, he argued ; 
let us, therefore, imitate the methods and the language 
of the socialistic agitators, and we shall have the masses 
with us. And Zubatov proceeded to organize a veritable 
"labour movement," with trade-unions, workers' meetings, 
lecture clubs, etc., all under the auspices of the Secret 
Service. The city of Moscow, with its large industrial 
population, was Zubatov's headquarters, and his activities 
had the cooperation and unqualified approval of both Grand 
Duke Sergey Alexandrovich, Governor-General, and Gen- 
eral Trepov, Governor of Moscow. Both the department 
of factory inspection and myself, in my official capacity, 
were strenuously opposed to Zubatov's scheme, but we could 
do nothing against the all-powerful Grand Duke. Sipyagin, 
Minister of the Interior, merely succeeded in restricting 
Zubatov's efforts to Moscow. 

When Sipyagin was assassinated (in 1902),. his successor 
Plehve extended the experiment with police socialism to St. 
Petersburg. He began to organize there workmen's so- 
cieties of a counter-revolutionary nature, on the model of 
the Moscow organizations, in order to keep the labouring 
masses under the influence of the department of police. 
The task of organization was entrusted to Father Gapon, 
who soon succeeded in gaining the entire confidence of the 
Governor of St. Petersburg. Then, of course, the inevitable 
happened. The preaching of the socialists and anarchists 
gradually demoralized the workmen, and they began in- 
stinctively to strive to carry into effect the extreme pro- 
gram of socialism. Not only was Gapon unable to stem 
this movement, but gradually he, too, became infected with 
the revolutionary spirit. A storm was brewing, while 
neither Prince Mirski nor I, in my capacity of President of 



252 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

the Committee of Ministers, nor the Government knew any- 
thing about the matter. 

On January 8th, I was told by the Minister of Justice 
that in the evening there would be a conference at Prince 
Mirski's for the purpose of deciding what to do with the 
workmen who intended the next day to march to the Palace 
Square and present a petition to His Majesty. The Min- 
ister assured me that I would be invited to the conference 
because of my familiarity with the labour problem, but, as 
a matter of fact, owing to the opposition of the Minister 
of Finances, I was not invited to the conference. In the 
evening a deputation of public-spirited citizens came to see 
me. I received the committee and recognized among the 
delegates the academician Shakhmatov, the author Arsen- 
yev, and also Maxim Gorki. The spokesman of the delega- 
tion begged me to see to it that the Emperor should appear 
before the workmen and receive their petition. Otherwise, 
they said, a great disaster was inevitable. I refused to do 
anything, for the reason that I had no knowledge whatever 
of the matter and that it was not within my province. The 
men left, indignant at the fact that at such a critical time 
I stood on formalities. As soon as they were gone I in- 
formed Prince Mirski over the telephone about the delega- 
tion. The next morning, from my balcony, I could see a 
large crowd moving along the Kamennoostrovski Prospect. 
There were among it many intellectuals, women, and chil- 
dren. Before ten minutes were over shots resounded in the 
direction of the Troitzky Bridge. One bullet whizzed past 
me, another one killed the porter of the Alexander Lyceum. 
The next thing I saw was a number of wounded being 
carried away from the scene in cabs, and then a crowd run- 
ning in disorder with crying women here and there. I 
learned afterwards that it was decided at the above- 
mentioned conference not to allow the marchers to reach 
the Square, but apparently instructions were not issued in 



THE FIRST SOVIET 253 

time to the military authorities. There was no one present 
to speak to the workmen and make an attempt to bring them 
to reason. I do not know whether the same thing happened 
everywhere, but on the Troitzky Bridge the troops fired 
rashly and without rhyme or reason. There were hundreds 
of casualties in killed and wounded, among them many inno- 
cent people. Gapon fled and the revolutionists triumphed: 
the workmen were completely alienated from the Czar and 
his Government. 

Afterwards, when Trepov was appointed Governor- 
General, he conceived the h a PPY project of removing the 
horrible impression of Bloody Sunday on the workmen. 
Having secured from the employers the names of those 
workmen who were reliable to the extent of being willing 
to do a spy's work, he took a dozen of them to Tsarskoye 
Selo and introduced them to His Majesty as representatives 
of the St. Petersburg workmen. The "delegates" expressed 
their loyal feelings to the Emperor, and His Majesty deliv- 
ered before them a speech, written out beforehand, assuring 
them that he had their needs at heart and would do for 
them everything within his power. Thereupon, the "dele- 
gates" were dined and taken back to St. Petersburg. On 
the working masses of the capital the whole farce produced 
no effect whatever, and some of the "delegates" got such a 
hot reception from their comrades that they were forced 
to leave the factories where they were employed. 

When I became President of the Council of Ministers,- 
an effort was made to have me meet Father Gapon, who, 
I was told, regretted his part in the disaster of January 9, 
1905, and, now that a constitution had been granted, was 
anxious to help pacify the country. I refused to see him and 
informed Manuilov-Manusevich, who approached me on his 
behalf, that if Father Gapon did not leave St. Petersburg 
within twenty-four hours he would be arrested and tried. 
The following day I was informed that Gapon was ready 



254 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

to go abroad, but that he lacked the necessary funds. I 
gave Manuilov 500 rubles with the understanding that he 
would see Gapon out of Russia. Some time later I was 
again asked to allow Gapon to return to Russia. It was 
asserted that, in view of his influence on the workmen, he 
could be exceedingly useful in the struggle against the anar- 
chists and revolutionists. My reply was to the effect that 
I would never have anything to do with that man. In 
March, 1906, I heard from Minister Durnovo that Gapon 
was in Finland and that Rachkovsky, the chief of the Secret 
Service, was negotiating with him about his, Gapon's, pro- 
posal to betray the entire fighting organization of the central 
revolutionary committee into the hands of the Government. 
Gapon asked 100,000 rubles for that service; Rachkovsky 
offered 25,000. I observed that the price was a matter of, 
no importance but that generally I had no confidence in the 
man. I next heard that he had been assassinated in Finland. 
After the January disaster events followed with ominous 
rapidity, and by September, 1905, when I returned from 
my peace mission in America, the revolution was in full 
swing. A great deal of harm was done by the press. 
Having started to get out of hand at the beginning of the 
war, the press grew bolder and bolder as defeat followed 
upon defeat in the East, and in the month preceding October 
1 7th it kicked over the traces altogether, not only the liberal, 
but also the conservative organs. Although not with the 
same ultimate ends in view, all preached revolution in one 
way or another and adopted the same slogans: "Down 
with this base, inefficient government." "Down with the 
bureaucracy!" "Down with the present regime!" The 
St. Petersburg papers, which had set the pace for the whole 
Russian press and still do, though not to such a great extent, 
emancipated themselves completely from the censorship and 
went so far as to form an alliance based upon a tacit agree- 
ment to disregard the censor's orders. Almost all the news- 



THE FIRST SOVIET 255 

papers joined this league, even the conservative, including 
Novoye Fremya. In this connection it is interesting to note 
that later on, when the revolution was crushed, Novoye 
Fremya, forgetting its past behaviour, was the first to accuse 
the Government of weakness and the press of demoraliza- 
tion. 

On October 19, 1905, if I remember rightly, I had a con- 
ference with the representatives of the press. The chief 
spokesman of the delegation was the editor of Birzheviya 
Viedomosti, a Jew by the name of Propper. He spoke very 
boldly and with that arrogance which is characteristic of 
a certain type of educated Russian Jew. The tenor of his 
speech was to the effect that the press had no confidence in 
the Government. He demanded that the troops be removed 
from the capital and that the preservation of order in the 
city be entrusted to the municipal militia. He also de- 
manded complete freedom of the press, universal amnesty, 
and the dismissal of General Trepov. That this man, who 
used to spend long hours in the ante-chambers of influential 
persons, in an effort to obtain a government advertisement 
or some other privilege for his sheet, that this man should 
speak to me, the head of the Government, in such a tone 
was sufficient proof that Russia was possessed by a peculiar 
sort of dementia. No, I could not lean upon the press in 
my effort to placate the country. 

The newspapers informed the public of the many unions 
which had been organized throughout the country and co- 
ordinated by a central union of unions. About the proceed- 
ings of some of these organizations, for instance about the 
Academic Union, the papers gave extensive reports, but 
regarding the rest they limited themselves to stating that 
such and such a union had held a meeting somewhere and 
had taken important measures. Besides these bodies, there 
was, of course, the Union of Zemstvo and Town Delegates, 
with its permanent bureau, which played an important role. 



256 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

With this society were connected the leaders of the so- 
called public workers, some of whom became reactionary 
after experiencing the "amenities" of the-revolution. Guch- 
kov, Lvov, Prince Galitzin, Krasovsky, Shipov, Stakhovich, 
Count Heyden, and others of the same class belonged to 
this union, as well as secret republicans and idealistic politi- 
cians, some of them persons of great literary and oratorical 
ability, such as Hessen, Miliukov, Gredeskul, Nabokov, 
Shakhmatov, member of the academy, etc. All these unions, 
despite wide differences in composition and aims, joined in 
the preliminary task of overthrowing the existing regime- 
In endeavouring to accomplish this they acted in accordance 
with the maxim that the end justifies the means. Conse- 
quently they were not squeamish about their tactics, espe- 
cially about blazoning forth palpable lies in the press. In 
fact, at the time the newspapers were nothing but a mass of 
falsehoods, the conservative as well as the radical. But it 
must be admitted that when the revolution broke out and 
anarchy was rampant, the conservative sheets outdid the 
radical in spreading lies, slander and wild rumours. 

The Government took no measures, or only ineffectual 
ones, to counteract and stop the subversive activities of the 
unions and of the press. Probably it did not have the neces- 
sary information regarding the aims and doings of many 
of the unions. Very likely, too, it was misled by incompe- 
tent advisers. For instance, I was told afterwards that 
the Union of Railway Workers, which later brought on the 
railroad strike, was vigorously, defended by Prince Hilkov 
on the ground that this organization was purely economic 
and fraternal in character without any anti-Government 
tendencies. As far as the enforcement of the censorship is 
concerned, the difficulty of the task was tremendously in- 
creased by the existence of a widespread secret press, which 
turned out and distributed millions of copies of all sorts of 
revolutionary pamphlets, programs and proclamations. 



THE FIRST SOVIET 257 

r v,ff iu 

What prevented the Government from coping promptly 
and successfully with the revolutionary outbreaks was the 
lethargy, incompetence and timidity prevalent among ex- 
ecutive and administrative officers. To begin with, the Min- 
ister of the Interior, Bulygin, was altogether apathetic "be- 
cause he was aware that in reality not he, but General 
Trepov, ruled. In his turn, Trepov was almost out of his 
mind. He worked in starts and fits and writhed with ap- 
prehension as he saw the storm come sweeping on. Broken 
in health and spirit, he longed to escape from the whole 
incomprehensible nightmare. He told me that he could 
stay no longer at his post of Associate Minister of the In- 
terior, actually a position of dictatorship, which he had 
created for himself. Indeed, the desire to retire from the 
places of responsibility was very common at this time. The 
sagacious and skeptical K. P. Pobiedonostzev, for instance, 
abandoned the whole business except that he corresponded 
with the Emperor. The rest of the ministers, a colourless 
insignificant lot, Kokovtzev, Schwanebach, General Glazov, 
and General Rediger, kept silent and did nothing. 

The revolution made its appearance first in the border 
territories, the Baltic provinces being the earliest to show 
signs of deep unrest. In that region it took the form of 
agrarian disturbances. The chief reason for this was the 
policy of Russification which the Government pursued in 
that territory. The lower classes of the population of the 
Baltic provinces consist, as is known, of Letts, while the 
upper class is made up of Germans. In trying to Russify the 
region, our Government has succeeded, during the last sev- 
eral decades, in destroying the elements of culture which the 
German masters had forced upon the Letts. This was done 
through the instrumentality of the Russian school, with its 
liberal spirit, so thoroughly opposed to the mediaeval tradi- 
tions in which the German nobility educated the Lettish 
peasant. As a result, the effect of the Russification policy 



258 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

was to pit the Lettish plebeian against the German aristo- 
crat. Small wonder that, when the revolutionary wave 
reached the narrow-minded, staunch Letts, they responded 
to it by a veritable orgy of burning and looting the German 
landowners' property. In consequence, the leaders of the 
Baltic nobility, for instance, Budberg and Richter, the Presi- 
dent of the Court of Appeals, urged the Government to 
establish military rule in that territory. As a matter of 
fact, at Mitau and in the southern districts adjacent to that 
city there was already something in the nature of martial 
law. I did not wish, however, to grant the desire of the 
Baltic barons. 

To remedy the situation I created a provisional General- 
Governorship for the territory comprising the Kurland, 
Estland and Livland districts, with Lieutenant General So- 
logub as Governor-General. In that capacity, General Solo- 
gub, who was appointed at my instance, won my unqualified 
approval. He acted courageously and openly and endeav- 
oured to restrain the unbridled cruelty of some of his sub- 
ordinates. Thus, he saved Riga from the punitive detach- 
ment headed by Her Majesty's favourite, General Orlov. 
It was perhaps for this reason that General Sologub was 
forced to give up his post. He was succeeded by General 
Meller-Zakomelski, who had more faith in the efficacy of 
a policy of ruthlessness. 

As early as the beginning of 1905, Finland was in a state 
of latent conflagration. Upon ascending the throne, Nich- 
olas II by a special manifesto solemnly proclaimed his in- 
tention to respect the privileges granted to Finland by his 
predecessors. Such was indeed his sincere desire. During 
the first year of his reign he expressed his willingness to 
permit the Finns to establish a direct connection between 
the Finnish and Swedish railroads, although I pointed out 
to him that his most august father was opposed to that 
measure for strategic reasons. He did not doubt, he said, 



THE FIRST SOVIET 259 

the loyalty of his Finnish subjects, and he had complete 
confidence in them. 

When General Kuropatkin became Minister of War, he 
raised the question of Russifying Finland. He wished to 
distinguish himself. As long as Count Heyden, the Finnish 
Governor-General, was alive he held Kuropatkin's zeal in 
check. But soon the count died, and General Bobrikov was 
appointed to succeed him. When I congratulated him upon 
his nomination, he remarked that his mission in Finland was 
analogous to that of Count Muraviov in Poland. The com- 
parison was rather unexpected, and I could not refrain from 
observing that while Count Muraviov had been appointed 
to suppress a rebellion, he was apparently commissioned to 
create one. . . . That was our last friendly conversa- 
tion. . . . 

Soon afterwards Kuropatkin hatched a project of a mili- 
tary reform in Finland. Simultaneously an Imperial mani- 
festo was issued decreeing that all the legislative matters 
affecting the interests of the Empire should be passed upon 
by the Imperial Council. This was a violation of the Fin- 
nish constitution granted by His Majesty's predecessors and 
confirmed by himself. Kuropatkin laid his project before 
the Council, in the hope that this body would pass it, in 
spite of the opposition of the Finnish Diet. I vigorously 
opposed the reform as the Minister of War conceived it, 
and I drafted what I considered to be an acceptable version 
of the project. I had behind me the majority of the Im- 
perial Council and also the public opinion of Finland. 
Nevertheless, the Emperor sanctioned Kuropatkin's project, 
which was naturally supported by Bobrikov and Plehve. 

In the meantime, the Russification of Finland was being 
carried into effect. The Russian authorities took a number 
of measures, which from the Finnish standpoint were clearly 
and aggressively illegal. The Russian language was forced 
upon the Finnish schools, the country was flooded with Rus- 



2 6o THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

sian secret agents, Finnish senators were dismissed and re- 
placed by men who had nothing in common with the people, 
and those who protested were deported from the country. 
As a result Bobrikov was assassinated, the terroristic act 
being committed not by anarchists but by Finnish national- 
ists, and the country became a hotbed of unrest. 

In consequence, the outbreak of the revolution in Central 
Russia was a signal for the beginning of the revolution in 
Finland. Prince Obolensky, the Governor-General, immedi- 
ately gave up the struggle and after a while resigned. I 
was aware that a Finnish insurrection would greatly com- 
plicate the revolutionary chaos in Russia. On the other 
hand, I was always opposed to the policy of persecution 
inaugurated in Finland by Nicholas II. Therefore, when 
the Finnish representatives came to me and assured me that 
the Finns would forget all their grievances and quiet down, 
if the Russian Government would conscientiously observe 
the privileges granted to the duchy by the Emperor Alexan- 
der I and Alexander II, I, on my part, expressed my con- 
viction to His Majesty that it was imperative to revert to. 
the Finnish policy of his predecessors. I pointed out to him 
that the Finns had always been loyal as long as they were 
treated decently, and that it was highly dangerous to create 
a second Poland close by the gates of St. Petersburg. I 
urged His Majesty to respect the liberties granted to the 
Finns by Emperors Alexander I and Alexander II. At my 
recommendation, the Emperor appointed Gerard as Gov- 
ernor-General of Finland, to succeed Prince Obolensky, 
who had tendered his resignation. Upon Gerard's appoint- 
ment, Finland ceased to be the stage for the rehearsal of 
revolutionary tragedies intended for Russia. At present, 
it seems, Russian militant chauvinism is again turning 
against Finland, in the hope of making trouble. It is note- 
worthy that the Empress Dowager Maria Fiodorovna was 
completely out of sympathy with Bobrikov's policy. She 



THE FIRST SOVIET 261 

repeatedly intervened before the Emperor in behalf of the 
persecuted Finns. 

At this juncture Poland was also permeated with a spirit 
of revolt, but the malcontents were forced to keep under 
cover and disturbances occurred only sporadically because 
of the comparatively large army stationed there. It was 
commanded by Governor-General Skalon, who, while not 
a marvel, was at least a brave, straightforward man. He 
had been chosen shortly before when his predecessor, Gen- 
eral Maximovich, a petty character, appointed on the recom- 
- mendation of the Court Minister, Baron Frederichs, was 
removed because he deserted to his country villa near War- 
saw, whence he did not emerge till after the storm had 
blown over. He had been recommended merely in return 
for a favour rendered to Baron Frederichs at the time of the 
latter's marriage, which was a misalliance. 

When I became President of the Cabinet of Ministers, 
in October, 1905, I found Poland in a state of complete 
anarchy, assassinations and other terroristic acts happening 
daily. The disturbances were partly agrarian, partly indus- 
trial, in character. The situation was complicated by the 
nationalistic movement which united all classes of the popu- 
lation by a common aspiration for national independence, 
some dreaming of a separate Polish kingdom united to the 
Empire only in the person of the monarch, but most hoping 
for local autonomy. In view of all this, I conferred with 
the Governor-General and declared the country in a state 
of war, which measure aroused more indignation among the 
radical Russians than among the Polish masses. It was con- 
demned by the Russian liberals, and it served as a pretext 
for the socialists to call a second general strike, which was, 
however, unsuccessful. It was clear to me that in our en- 
thusiasm for political emancipation, we Russians had lost 
all respect for our glorious history and its product, the great 
Russian Empire. The radicals confused emancipation from 



262 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

the misrule of bureaucrats and courtiers with emancipation 
from all the traditions of our historical existence. 

A Polish delegation came to see me and made an attempt 
to persuade me to lift the state of war in Poland. Their 
chief spokesman, a well-known Polish lawyer, impressed me 
as very intelligent. He was aware, he said, that Poland's 
separation from Russia was a fantastic dream and that the 
Russian Government had no choice but to take stringent 
measures against the outbreaks of anarchy in Poland, but, 
he asserted, the Russian regime and culture were alone to 
blame for the intolerable state of affairs in the Polish prov- 
inces. For that reason the Poles, he said, were anxious to 
keep away from the Russians. "The labor problem," he 
went on, "is of long standing in Poland, but, as in the west, 
it had developed in an orderly, evolutionary fashion. The 
revolutionary germ we owe to you Russians. After the 
pogrom organized by Plehve at Kishinev and the subsequent 
anti-Jewish riots, a great many Jewish artisans and work- 
men emigrated to Poland, where the Jews are treated more 
humanely. It was these Russian emigrants who imbued our 
workmen with their militant, embittered anarchism and their 
terroristic methods of political struggle. Your Jews have 
debauched ours, just as wild animals would infect domesti- 
cated ones with their savagery. And, of course, your Jews 
cannot help being wild, since you deny them the sum of 
human feelings and aspirations. Our schools are infested 
with socialistic propaganda, the product of Russian nihilism. 
Where did those obnoxious ideas come from? From your 
schools and colleges. Our children respect their parents 
and their elders. They revere their religion, their culture, 
their language, their literature, they have faith in their na- 
tionality and they believe that 'Poland has not yet perished.' 
The only result of your attempt to Russify us was to de 
bauch our children and to deprive them of those sacred 
traditions which alone form a strong nation. You have 



THE FIRST SOVIET 263 

taken our dearest possessions an4, in exchange, you have 
given us nothing but your nihilism, in its various aspects." 
He finished his philippic by a plea for reconciliation and for 
the lifting of the state of war. I found it, however, im- 
possible to grant his desire, for I was assured from an 
authoritative Russian source that those Poles who had any- 
thing to lose would at heart regret the removal of martial 
law. 

Odessa, too, was seething with rebellion. There were 
two special causes for the extreme disorder in this city. In 
the first place, the Jews, who formed a large proportion 
of its inhabitants, supposed that, by taking advantage of the 
general confusion and the undermining of the Government's 
prestige, they would be able to obtain equal rights through 
revolution. At this time only a comparatively small num- 
ber of the Jews were active, but the overwhelming majority, 
having lost patience long before by reason of the many 
injustices practised against them, sympathized with the so- 
called emancipatory movement, which was now adopting 
revolutionary tactics. In the second place, the uprising was 
largely provoked by the brutality of the Municipal Gov- 
ernor, Neidhart, who was bitterly hated by most of the 
inhabitants. Fitted neither by education nor by experience 
for such an important position, he had been appointed 
simply because he was Stolypin's brother-in-law, the same 

treason for which he was later made senator. The appoint- 
ment may also have been due partly to the fact that the 
Czar had taken a liking to Neidhart as the buffoon officer 
of the Preobrazhensky regiment, in which His Majesty 
served during his youth. Neidhart, though not stupid, was 
very superficial and ignorant, but he had a high opinion of 
himself and excited such hostility by his arrogance and 
harshness toward his subordinates and the people that I 
had to remove him soon after the iyth of October, an action 



264 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

for which he and his sister, Premier Stolypin's wife, have 
been my enemies ever since. 

In the southeastern territory, Governor-General Kleigels 
had become inactive and when the October days came, he 
abandoned his post altogether. Previously he had been 
Governor of St. Petersburg. He was a dull-witted indi- 
vidual, but the Emperor liked him very much, wholly, I 
imagine, because of his knightly appearance and his imper- 
turbable demeanour. As police chief, Kleigels was perhaps 
in the right place, but he was totally unfit to occupy such an 
important place as the governor-generalship of Kiev; and 
when the Emperor appointed him, all who had not given 
up the attempt to follow the course of events were greatly 
astonished. 

In the Caucasus both the country districts and the towns 
were in full blaze, and all sorts of excesses were committed 
daily. The lieutenant, Count Vorontzov-Dashkov, tried to 
pursue a policy of conciliation, but all he actually put into 
practice was a perpetual interchange of liberal and reaction- 
ary measures. On the whole, the count, though not very in- 
telligent, meant well and was endowed with common sense, 
but he failed principally on account of his inability to choose 
capable subordinates. 

The whole of Siberia was in a terrible turmoil. This was 
due to the fact that this territory had been for a long time, 
as it still is, a reservoir for criminals, exiles and restless 
people generally. Furthermore, being nearer to the theatre 
of war, Siberia felt its shame more keenly, and having wit- 
nessed the traffic to and from the battlefields, was more 
deeply horrifred at its disasters. Besides, here, too, the situ- 
ation was aggravated by the presence of an inefficient gov- 
ernor-general. Kutaisov, who held the office and had his 
headquarters at Irkutsk, did not lack intelligence, but he 
was not a man of action and wasted his time in talking con- 
tinually and to no purpose. It was said that he had been 



THE FIRST SOVIET 265 

appointed merely to satisfy the wish of the Empress, Alex- 
andra Fyodorovna, who, as a girl, while visiting her grand- 
mother, Queen Victoria, had become acquainted with Ku- 
taisov during the time that he was our military attache in 
London. The administration's power in Siberia was also 
impaired by the frequent disputes between Kutaisov and 
Sukhotin, the Governor-General at Omsk, who was depend- 
able, straightforward and clever, but somewhat irascible. 

The border provinces were clearly taking advantage of 
the weakening of Central Russia to show their teeth. They 
began to retaliate for the age-long injustices which had been 
inflicted upon them and also for the measures which, al- 
though correct, outraged the national feeling of the peoples 
which we had conquered but not assimilated. They were 
ardently waiting for what appeared to them as their deliver- 
ance from the Russo-Mongolian yoke. For this situation 
we alone were to blame. We failed to perceive that since 
the days of Peter the Great and, especially, since the reign 
of Catherine II, we had been living not in Russia, but in the 
Russian Empire. The dominating element of the Empire, 
the Russians, fall into three distinct ethnic branches: the 
Great, the Little, and the White Russians, and 35 per cent, 
of the population is non-Russian. It is impossible to rule 
such a country and ignore the national aspirations of its 
varied non-Russian national groups, which largely make up 
the population of the Great Empire. The policy of convert- 
ing all Russian subjects into "true Russians" is not the ideal 
which will weld all the heterogeneous elements of the Em- 
pire into one body politic. It might be better for us Rus- 
sians, I concede, if Russia were a nationally uniform coun- 
try and not a heterogeneous Empire. To achieve that goal 
there is but one way, namely to give up our border provinces, 
for these will never put up with the policy of ruthless Russi- 
fication. But that measure our ruler will, of course, never 
consider. On the contrary, not content with all these Poles, 



266 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Finns, Germans, Letts, Georgians, Armenians, Tartars, etc., 
e.tc., within our borders we conceived a desire to annex a 
territory populated by Mongolians, Chinese and Koreans. 

I assumed the duty of ruling the Russian Empire in the 
capacity of President of the Committee of Ministers in 
October, 1905. At that time the country was in a state of 
complete and universal confusion. The Government was 
in a quandary, and when the revolution boiled up furiously 
from the depths, the authorities were completely paralyzed. 
They either did nothing or pulled in opposite directions, so 
that the existing regime and its noble standard bearer were 
almost completely swept out of existence. The rioting grew 
more fierce, not daily but hourly. The revolution came out 
openly on the streets and assumed a more and more threat- 
ening character. Its urge carried away all classes of the 
people. 

A general feeling of profound discontent with the existing 
order was the most apparent symptom of the corruption 
with which the social and political life of Russia was in- 
fested. It was this feeling that united all the classes of the 
population. They all joined in a demand for radical polit- 
ical reforms, but the manner in which the different social 
groups visioned the longed-for changes varied with each 
class of people. 

The upper classes, the nobility, were dissatisfied and im- 
patient with the Government. They were not averse to the 
idea of limiting the Emperor's autocratic powers, but with a 
view to benefiting their own class. Their dream was an 
aristocratic constitutional monarchy. The merchants and 
captains of industry, the rich, looked forward to a consti- 
tutional monarchy of the burgeois type and dreamed of the 
leadership of capital and of a mighty race of Russian Roths- 
childs. The "intelligentzia," i.e., members of various liberal 
professions, hoped for a constitutional monarchy, which was 
eventually to result in a bourgeois republic modelled upon the 



THE FIRST SOVIET 267 

pattern of the French State. The students, not only in the 
universities, but in the advanced high school grades, recog- 
nized no law, except the word of those who preached the 
most extreme revolutionary and anarchistic theories. Many 
of the officials in the various governmental bureaus were 
against the regime they served, for they were disgusted with 
the shameful system of corruption which had grown to such 
gigantic proportions during the reign of Nicholas II. The 
zemstvo and municipal workers had long before declared 
that safety lay in the adoption of a constitution. As for 
the workmen, they were concerned about filling their stom- 
achs with more food than had been their wont. For this 
reason they revelled in all manner of socialistic schemes of 
state organization. They fell completely under the sway of 
the revolutionists and rendered assistance without stint 
wherever there was need of physical force. 

Finally, the majority of the Russian people, the peasantry, 
were anxious to increase their land holdings and to do away 
with the unrestrained arbitrary actions on the part of the 
higher landed class and of the police throughout the extent 
of its hierarchy, from the lowest gendarme to the provin- 
cial governor. The peasant's dream was an autocratic Czar, 
but a people's Czar, pledged to carry out the principle pro- 
claimed in the reign of Emperor Alexander II, to wit, the 
emancipation of the peasants with land in violation of the 
sacredness of property rights. The peasants were inclined 
to relish the idea of a constitutional monarchy and the so- 
cialistic principles as they were formulated by the labourite 
party, which party emphasized labour and the notion that 
labour alone, especially physical labour, is the foundation of 
all right. The peasants, too, were ready to resort to vio- 
lence in order to obtain more land and, in general, to better 
their intolerable condition. 

It is noteworthy that the nobility was willing to share the 
public pie with the middle class, but neither of these classes 



268 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

had a sufficiently keen eye to notice the appearance on the 
historical stage of a powerful rival, who was numerically 
superior to both and possessed the advantage of having 
nothing to lose. No sooner did this hitherto unnoticed class, 
the proletariat, approach the pie than it began to roar like 
a beast which stops at nothing to devour its prey. 

Anticipating upon the course of events, I may say that 
when the nobility and the bourgeoisie beheld the beast, they 
began to fall back, or rather face to the right. Suvorin, the 
head of Novoye Fremya, who three years before had pro- 
phesied the coming of the "spring" and rejoiced in relishing 
its fragrances in advance, turned into a charlatan shouting 
every day at the top of his voice : "I want a constitution, 
but for the good of Russia all should be done in accord- 
ance with the will of His Majesty and of us, who have in- 
comes of a hundred thousand rubles." In a word, for a 
hundred years the nobility had dreamed of a constitution, 
but for itself alone. When they discovered that the con- 
stitution could by no means be a noblemen's constitution, 
they embraced the political faith of scoundrels like Dubro- 
vin, Purishkevich, and other Black Hundred leaders. 

I have already told how the aliens, and in the empire 
35 per cent, of the population consists of non-Russians, 
seeing this great upheaval, lifted their heads and decided 
that the time was ripe for the realization of their dreams 
and desires. The Poles wanted autonomy, the Jews equal 
rights, etc.; and all of them longed for the annihilation of 
the system of deliberate oppression which embittered their 
existence. To cap the climax, the army was in an ugly mood. 
Discipline had been undermined and morale shaken by the 
terrible defeats of the war, which the soldiers blamed on the 
Government, and justly so. Besides, there was a great deal 
of trouble about demobilization. Due to the enormous 
demands of the war in the east, the military forces in Euro- 
pean Russia had been reduced to a minimum, so that when 



THE FIRST SOVIET 269 

peace was concluded, the Government considered it inadvis- 
able to fulfil its promise of demobilizing all those who had 
been called to the colours during the war. Enraged at the 
breaking of this pledge, the soldiers mutinied in many places, 
and frequently small detachments fought the Government 
under the orders of revolutionary leaders. Many of the 
officials, concluding from these disorders that the whole 
army was unreliable, had deep misgivings about the return 
of the forces stationed in the east. It was this apprehension 
that led to a project of retaining at least a part of the east- 
ern army in Siberia, bribing the men into acquiescence by 
granting them free land in that territory, ostensibly as a 
reward for their services to the country. 

Anarchistic attacks directed against the lives of govern- 
ment officials; riots in all the institutions of higher learning 
and even in the secondary schools, which were accompanied 
by various excesses; trouble in the army; disturbances among 
peasants and workmen, involving destruction of property, 
personal injury and loss of life; and finally strikes, such 
were the main conditions with which the authorities had to 
cope. On October 8, 1905, traffic on the railroads adjoining 
Moscow ceased completely. It took the railway strike but 
two days to spread to the Kharkov railroad junction, and on 
October I2th, the St. Petersburg junction was tied up. In 
the subsequent days traffic ceased on the remaining railroads. 
By October I7th, nearly the entire railway net and the tele- 
graph were in a state of complete paralysis. About the 
same time almost all the factories and mills in the large in- 
dustrial centres of Russia came to a stand-still. In St. Peters- 
burg the strike in the factories and mills began on the I2th 
day of October, and on the I5th the business life of the 
capital was completely tied up. 

Thus all these ills came to afflict the land at one and the 
same time and such terrible confusion resulted that one can 
truthfully say that Russia's soul cried out in agony for 



270 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

relief from the torment of chaos. The universal exclama- 
tion was: "We can live like this no longer. The present 
insane regime must be done away with." To accomplish 
this purpose, leaders and fighters, both of thought and deed, 
arose from every class of the people, and not a handful, but 
thousands and thousands. While it is true that they were 
after all only a small minority, nevertheless their might was 
irresistible, for almost everybody sympathized with them 
and longed for their success. 

The city of St. Petersburg, the intellectual capital of the 
country, with its large industrial population was, naturally 
enough, one of the chief storm centres of the revolution: 
It was there that the council (Soviet) of Workmen's Depu- 
ties came into being. The idea of setting up this institution 
was born in the early days of October, and the press began 
to agitate for it among the working population of the cap- 
ital. On October i3th, the first session of the Soviet took 
place in the Technological Institute. At this session an ap- 
peal was issued to the workmen of the capital, urging them 
to strike and to formulate extreme political demands. The 
second session took place in the same building the following 
day. At this session a certain Nosar, a Jew and an assistant 
attorney-at-law, was elected president of the Soviet. Nosar, 
for purposes of propaganda, worked as a weaver at Ches- 
her's factory and was known there under_die_name of 
Khrustalev. The working population of St. Petersburg, al- 
most in its entirety, carried out the decision of the Soviet 
with complete submission. On October I5th, the Soviet met 
again in the same building, this session being attended by 
several professors and a few members of other liberal pro- 
fessions, who took an active part in the discussions. The 
next day, in consequence of the publication of new rulings 
concerning public meetings, the school and university build- 
ings were closed down. For this reason the Soviet could not 
meet that day. On October I7th, the Soviet held a session 



THE FIRST SOVIET 271 

in the hall of the Free Economic Society. By that time it 
counted upward of two hundred members. 

The historical manifesto which granted the country a 
constitution was issued on the iyth of October, 1905, and 
on the same day "The Bulletins (Izviestiya) of the Soviet 
of Workmen's Deputies," a purely revolutionary organ, be- 
gan to be printed in turn in several printing houses. Need- 
less to say, this was done in spite of the owners of the 
presses, who were far from being revolutionaries. 

At the time when I entered upon my office (the i8th of 
October), this Workmen's Soviet appeared at the first 
glance to be a considerable power, for the reason that it 
was obeyed by the working masses, the printers included. 
The last circumstance was of particular importance, for it 
meant that the newspapers were to a certain extent controlled 
by the Soviet, since the publication of the papers depended, 
in the last account, upon the willingness of the printers to 
work. The printers' devotion to the Soviet affected most 
intimately A. S. Suvorin, the editor and publisher of Novoye 
Vremya. This great newspaper was first of all a profitable 
business establishment and had for a long time been treated 
as such by its owner. He was a talented publicist and a pa- 
triot, but with the growth of his profits and vast fortune, 
he was willing to sacrifice more and more of his ideals and 
talents to the interests of his pocket. He started his jour- 
nalistic career without a penny to his name and died the 
owner of a fortune estimated at five million rubles. Yet 
several months before he died he expressed his dissatisfac- 
tion with Russia. Had he lived and worked in America, he 
complained, he would have accumulated tens of millions, 
while in Russia he had made but a miserable fortune of some 
two or three million rubles. 

The Workmen's Soviet met on October i8th and decided 
to declare a general strike, as an expression of the work- 
men's dissatisfaction with the manifesto. Nevertheless, 



272 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

the strike movement in Moscow and elsewhere began to 
wane and railroad traffic was soon restored to normal con- 
ditions. Under these circumstances the Soviet, at its ses- 
sion of October I9th, decided to call off the strike two days 
later. During the days following closely upon the publica- 
tion of the manifesto, frequent clashes took place in the 
streets of the capital between the revolutionaries, on one 
side, and the troops, the police, and counter-revolutionaries, 
on the other. During these clashes, several people were 
killed and wounded. Among them was Professor Tarle, of 
the St. Petersburg University, who was wounded in the head, 
near the Technological Institute. The Soviet attempted to 
organize demonstrations in connection with the funeral of 
the fallen workmen, but the Government did not permit it. 
After October lyth, I gave orders to allow all peaceful 
processions arranged in connection with the manifesto, but 
to suppress the demonstrations at the first sign of disorder 
and violation of the public peace. The demonstration which 
was to accompany the funeral was clearly intended to cause 
disorder and consequently was not permitted. 

Generally speaking, several days after October iyth St. 
Petersburg quieted down, and throughout the six months of 
my premiership I did not enact a single extraordinary meas- 
ure relating to the administration of St.. Petersburg and its, 
district. Nor was there a single case of capital punish- 
ment. All the extraordinary measures were taken later, 
when Stolypin inaugurated the policy of undoing the reform 
of October lyth. 

One of the faults with which I have been charged is that 
during my premiership I did not shoot enough people and 
kept others from indulging in that sport. Whoever hesi- 
tates to shed blood, it was argued, should not hold so re- 
sponsible a post as I did. But, on my part. I consider it a 
special merit that during the six months when I was in 
power only a few dozen people were killed in St. Petersburg 



THE FIRST SOVIET 273 

and no one executed. In the whole of Russia fewer people 
were executed during those months than in several days 
under Stolypin, when officially law and order prevailed 
in the country. History will condemn the reign of Nicho- 
las II for the indiscriminate court-martialing of men and 
women, adults and adolescents, for political crimes com- 
mitted two, three, four, and even five years previous to 
the execution. 

Elsewhere in Russia, however, the demonstrations con- 
nected with the manifesto were accompanied by disorders. 
Thus, for instance, on October 26th, riots broke out at Kron- 
stadt. They were not quelled until October 28th. Kron- 
stadt, a city administered by the Ministry of the Navy, was 
revolutionary to an_e^ctrjordinary^ degree. The spirit of 
revolt was rooted deeper among the sailors than in the army. 
Even before October I7th, this spirit manifested itself in 
military prommciamentos among the sailors at Sebastopol 
and partly at Nikolayev and Kronstadt. This revolutionary 
spirit became rampant among the sailors because of the 
naval authorities' misrule and also because the sailors were 
recruited from the more intelligent elements of the popula- 
tion, which fall an easier prey to revolutionary propaganda. 
It must be borne in mind that in those days the revolution- 
izing process was going on among vast masses of people. 

The publication of the manifesto gave rise to numerous 
joyful demonstrations all over the country. They were met 
by counter-demonstrations conducted by bands known as 
Black Hundreds. These bands, which were so nicknamed 
because of their small numbers, were made up of hooligans. 
But as they were supported in some places by the local 
authorities, they soon began to grow in number and weight, 
and then it all ended in a pogrom directed mostly, if not 
exclusively, against the Jews. Furthermore, as the extreme 
Left elements were also dissatisfied with the manifesto be- 
cause of its insufficient radicalism and also indulged in riot- 



274 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

ing without meeting sufficient moral opposition on the part 
of the liberals, the hooligans of the Right, that is, the 
Black Hundreds, soon found support in the central admin- 
istration and then also higher up. 

In connection with the Department of Police a printing 
press was set up for turning out pogrom proclamations in- 
tended to incite the dark masses mostly against the Jews. 
This activity, to which I put an end, was revealed to me by 
the former Director of the Police Department, Lopukhin, 
who is now in exile in Siberia. But in the provinces this 
activity was going on as before. Thus, in my premiership a 
pogrom was perpetrated against the Jews at Homel. The 
riot was provoked by the gendarmerie. When I discovered 
this shameful incident, and reported it to the Council of 
Ministers, His Majesty wrote on the memorandum about 
this affair that such matters should not be brought to his 
attention (as too trivial a subject). . . . The Emperor 
must have been influenced in this case by the Minister of the 
Interior, Durnovo. ^ 

After the strike was over, beginning October 27th, the 
workmen in several mills started to introduce by direct 
action the eight-hour workday. The Workmen's Soviet took 
advantage of the situation and decreed the forceful introduc- 
tion of the eight-hour day. The Soviet felt that it was 
losing its prestige among the workmen. On November ist 
it called a second general strike, emphasizing the necessity 
of this measure as a protest against the introduction of 
martial law in Poland and also against the manner in which 
the Government suppressed the riots at Kronstadt. I learned 
about this step that same night and I wired at once to the 
workers of several mills, warning them to cease obeying 
persons who, clearly, were leading them to ruin and starva- 
tion. In my dispatch I told the workers that I was advising 
them in a spirit of comradeship. The phrase was rather 
unusual in mouth of the head of the Government addressing 



THE FIRST SOVIET 275 

the workmen. Some of the newspapers, Novoye Vremya 
included, took up the phrase and began to make sport of it. 
On the other hand, the labour leaders, touched to the quick 
by the influence my dispatch exerted upon the workers, grew 
furious. Nevertheless, the strike proved a failure, the 
workmen ceased to obey the Soviet and their leaders, and, 
therefore, on the 5th of November the Soviet decided to 
call off the strike. Generally speaking, the strikes were 
over by November yth, and the Emperor wrote to me on 
that same day: "I am glad that this senseless railroad 
strike is over. This is a great moral triumph for the 
Government." 

On November i3th, the Soviet again considered the 
proposition of declaring a general strike. The plan was 
rejected, and the Soviet was also constrained "temporarily" 
to discontinue the forceful introduction of the eight-hour 
workday. From that time on the authority of the Soviet 
began rapidly to decline and its organization to decay. It 
was then that I found it opportune to have Nosar arrested. 
The arrest was made on November 26th. Thereupon the 
Soviet elected a presidium of three to replace Nosar. This 
presidium held secret sessions, while the body of the Soviet 
did not meet at all. I had intended to have Nosar arrested 
at an earlier date, but Litvinoff-Falinski, now in charge of 
one of the departments of the Chief Management of Com- 
merce and Industry, persuaded me to refrain from so doing. 
He argued that it was necessary to postpone the arrest till 
the workmen would welcome it, that is, until Nosar and the 
Soviet would have lost all prestige. In this fashion we 
would avoid an unnecessary clash with the workmen, a clash 
which might prove bloody. This was judicious advice. 
After Nosar was taken, I ordered the arrest of the whole 
Soviet, which order Durnovo carried out on December 3rd. 
Durnovo feared that the members would disperse and escape 
if he started arresting them separately. He therefore 



276 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

waited for the Soviet to meet, which the latter hesitated to 
do. Their fears were well founded, for as soon as the body 
gathered on December 3rd in the Hall of the Free Economic 
Society, the members, 190 in all, were rounded up and 
arrested. After Nosar's arrest the Soviet had attempted 
to put through a plan for a general strike as a protest 
against the arrest, but their efforts were in vain. 

Thus ended the affair of the Workmen's Soviet and its 
leader, Nosar. The matter was greatly overdrawn by the 
press, for the simple reason that these strikes, involving, as 
they did, the printers, touched the pockets of the newspaper 
people. Of course, there were among the journalists men 
who sympathized with the "Workers' Revolution," but 
those were impecunious journalists, mostly dreamers. 
Revolution always and everywhere brings forth such 
fanatical idealists. 

Since 1905 there have been no serious strikes in Russia. 
The strike movement during the revolution taught the 
workers to assume a very skeptical attitude toward leaders 
like Nosar. It also taught the employers a lesson. To a 
certain extent they have bettered the conditions of the 
workers. The Government, too, learned a lesson. This 
year the Government has enacted a workmen's insurance 
law, despite the masked opposition of some of the repre- 
sentatives of industry sitting in the Imperial Council and 
Duma. This law was practically approved about twenty 
years ago, when I was Minister of Finances, but met with 
constant obstruction. Nevertheless, the revolution appears 
not to have taught any lesson to the gendarmerie and secret 
police. This very year an officer of the gendarmes, 
Tereschenko by name, if I remember rightly, caused up- 
wards of 200 Lena miners to be shot, although the men 
tried to better their intolerable condition by peaceful means 
and only after their patience had been tried for many years. 
The local administration was apparently in the pay of the 



THE FIRST SOVIET 277 

rich gold mining corporation and did nothing to thwart its 
predatory greed. The Minister of the Interior, Makaroff, 
in trying to justify the slaughter of the miners by the 
gendarmes, laid before the Duma a most far-fetched and 
false report on the subject and concluded his speech with 
this hideous exclamation: "Thus has it ever been, thus 
will it ever be." Of course, one need not be a prophet to 
foretell that if it is true that such things did happen (as in 
tHe case of Gapon, which was staged by Von Plehve), it is 
equally true that such a scheme of things cannot last for- 
ever. A regime under which such slaughters are possible 
cannot long exist, and October I7th is the beginning of the 
end. 

After I had left the post of President of the Council of 
Ministers, some papers spread the rumour that I had re- 
ceived the chief leader of the Soviet and, with him, a delega- 
tion from the Soviet. Some of the Black Hundred leaders 
charged me with having entertained criminal relations with 
the Soviet and the revolutionists. Others went further and 
declared that I had set up the Soviet myself. Novoye 
Fremya is responsible for the silly joke to the effect that 
during my premiership there were two governments, Count 
Witte's and Nosar's, and it was for a while uncertain who 
was going to arrest whom : Witte Nosar or Nosar Witte. 

I wish to declare here, in reply to all these fantastic 
rumours, that I have never in my life laid eyes on Nosar, 
and have never had any relations with either the Soviet or 
the revolutionists. Nor did I ever receive any members of 
the Soviet as such. Should they have come to me I would 
have dispatched them to the city governor. In general, 
I attributed no importance to this Soviet. It exerted an 
influence only on the workmen of the St. Petersburg district, 
and for that reason alone it seemed to me ridiculous to 
speak of its political significance. As soon as I judged it 
timely to arrest its members, I did so, without shedding a 



278 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

drop of blood. There were rumours that some compromis- 
ing papers were in the hands of the Minister of the Interior 
relating to my alleged negotiations with the Soviet. I need 
not add that the rumours were entirely false. 

The main centre of the revolutionary movement was, 
however, not St. Petersburg, but the ancient city of Moscow. 
Since the 'nineties of the last century Moscow had been the 
nest of opposition. More than bureaucratic St. Petersburg, 
Moscow was the laboratory of radical political and social 
ideas. 

The regime of Grand Duke Sergey Alexandrovich and 
General Trepov, Governor-General and Governor, respec- 
tively, could not but drive all the classes of the population 
into the arms of that genuine, national opposition which 
springs from discouraged conservatism and prejudiced 
material interests. Moscow was the birthplace of the con- 
ventions of zemstvo and municipal leaders, who were 
destined to form the General Staff of the opposition forces. 

After the assassination of Grand Duke Sergey Alexandro- 
vich, the Government appointed General Kozlov, the former 
Chief of Police, to succeed him. Kozlov was a splendid 
man, respected by everybody, but, unfortunately, he was 
soon forced to resign, as he could not get along with General 
Trepov. Thereupon, P. P. Durnovo was chosen at the 
request of Count Solski, who before that had taken him 
into the Imperial Council. Very wealthy, a general, and 
ex-President of the St. Petersburg Municipal Duma, he was 
a peculiar combination of a liberal and an old-time despot, 
altogether disqualified for any serious business and wholly 
incapable of enlisting either the sympathy or the support of 
any social group or party in the city. In Moscow he was 
lost, did not have the least conception of what was going 
on, and finally became so bewildered that on one occasion 
he went out into the square, I was told, in the Adjutant- 
General's uniform, doffing his military cap, to talk things 



THE FIRST SOVIET 279 

over with the revolutionary mob assembled under the red 
flag. 

The whole of Moscow was in either open or secret 
opposition, including the representatives of the nobility and 
of the merchant class. Some of the Moscow millionaires 
contributed liberally not only to the cause of the constitu- 
tional movement, but even to the revolution. The industrial 
king Savva Morozov donated several millions to the revo- 
lutionists, through an actress who lived with Maxim Gorki 
and with whom Morozov was infatuated. Early in 1905, 
I remember, Morozov asked me over the telephone to 
receive him. I granted his desire, and he expressed to me 
the most extreme opinions to the effect that we must get rid 
of the autocracy, introduce a parliamentary system, etc., 
etc. Taking advantage of the fact that I had known him 
for many years and that I was many years his senior, I laid 
my hand on his shoulder and said to him : "As I wish you 
well, I shall give this advice : Attend to your business, and 
keep away from the revolution." Morozov was visibly 
taken aback, but my words sobered him and he thanked me 
for my advice. He was later caught red-handed in Moscow. 
To avoid a scandal, the police proposed to him that he leave 
the country. Abroad he became completely entangled in 
the revolutionary net and committed suicide. 

Another leading spirit of the Moscow industrial world, 
Krestovnikov, chairman of the Stock Exchange Committee, 
if I remember rightly, came to see me soon after the pub- 
lication of the constitutional manifesto. The purpose of 
his visit was to plead for a lowering of the rate at which 
the Imperial Bank discounted bills of exchange. In those 
days the country was passing through a severe financial 
crisis, and the safety of the gold standard of our currency 
depended upon my success in concluding a foreign loan. 
Without explaining to him our financial situation, I merely 
told him that I was unable to grant his desire. Krestov-. 



280 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

nikov clutched his head in despair, and exclaiming, "Give 
us the Duma, call it as soon as possible!" dashed out of 
my study like a crazed man. It is astonishing to what extent 
prominent public men misjudged the situation in those days. 
The Duma election law was already known at that time. 
Nevertheless, here was a notable representative of the 
moneyed class who imagined that, as soon as the Duma was 
convoked, I would proceed to enact measures furthering the 
interests of capital. But when the Duma failed to justify 
the hopes of the propertied classes, they backed out of the 
game of liberalism, and the stray sheep returned to the fold 
of autocracy. 

The authorities were powerless to control the course of 
events in Moscow. Ill-informed and inefficient, they 
shirked their responsibilities, evaded personal dangers and 
shrunk from fighting the oncoming revolution. The story 
of the Moscow Peasant Congress is a fitting illustration of 
the state of affairs in the ancient Russian capital. I learned 
that the Congress was definitely committed to the policy of 
compulsory expropriation of private land property without 
compensation. In general, it was called for the open propa- 
ganda of most extreme revolutionary ideas. I did not for 
a moment doubt that the Governor-General would either 
prohibit the Congress or confer about the matter with the 
central government. Suddenly I learned from the news- 
papers that the Congress had opened. I telegraphed to the 
Governor-General warning him of the character of the 
Congress. For several days I received no answer. Finally, 
the convention was closed by the police, after it had held a 
number of sessions and succeeded in spreading broadcast a 
great many revolutionary ideas. This laxity of the authori- 
ties is largely accounted for by the terroristic activities of 
the revolutionaries. 

Accidentally, I had a private source of information about 
the situation in Moscow. Once, when I was Director of 



THE FIRST SOVIET 281 

the South-Western Railroads, a young woman, whom I had 
previously met at the house of a colleague, came to me and 
begged me, with tears in her eyes, to give her a chance to 
gain an honest living. I placed her in one of the numerous 
offices of the Railroad Management. Some years later I 
met her in St. Petersburg. Several weeks after the publica- 
tion of the manifesto a lady came to see me and introduced 
herself as the wife of a well-known Moscow judge. I 
recognized in her the girl to whom I had done the little 
service many years before. She confided to me that a friend 
of hers was in love with a young man who occupied a prom- 
inent place in the revolutionary movement, and that through 
her she was au courant of the plans of the revolutionists. 
She told me that a regular insurrection with all its classical 
attributes, such as barricades, etc., was in the course of 
preparation in Moscow. The revolutionists being aware, 
she said, of the demoralization and panic of the administra- 
tion and the troops, were seeking to deal the blow before 
the authorities came to themselves. She was prompted, she 
added, to disclose this to me by a desire to repay me for my 
kindness toward her and to save her friend. 

Impressed by her words, I urged the Emperor to appoint 
a reliable Governor in Moscow. In the meantime, the revo- 
lutionary wave was rising higher in Moscow, and the intelli- 
gence which I received from my lady informant was grow- 
ing more and more alarming. On November 9th (22), 
while His Majesty was leaving a session of the Council of 
Ministers, which took place under his presidency, I stopped 
him and declared that, unless a resolute and energetic man 
was appointed to take charge of Moscow, the city might 
fall into the hands of the revolutionists, which event would 
be a signal for general anarchy in the country. I insisted 
that General Dubasov should be immediately appointed 
Governor-General of Moscow, and His Majesty granted 
my request. General Dubasov arrived in Moscow several 



days bef&re the outbreak of the insurrection. Shortly after- 
wards, he requested me to assist him in getting more troops. 
The Minister of War informed me that a regiment sent 
from Poland was due in Moscow three days later. The 
regiment did not arrive in time, for the reason that the 
revolutionists made an attempt to wreck the train which 
carried a part of it. Before the regiment arrived General 
Dubasov asked again for troops from St. Petrograd. He 
informed me that he had barely enough men to guard the 
railway stations and that the city proper was altogether 
denuded of troops. I immediately telephoned to General 
Trepov asking him personally to tell His Majesty that 
I considered the immediate dispatch of troops an absolutely 
imperative measure, if we wanted to prevent the capture of 
the city by the revolutionists, with its numberless disastrous 
consequences. In the evening General Trepov informed me 
that His Majesty asked me to go to Grand Duke Nikolai 
Nikolaievich and persuade him to send troops to Moscow. 
I complied with His Majesty's request and went to see the 
Grand Duke. He realized that the troops at General 
Dubasov's disposal were few and demoralized, but he 
argued that his chief task at the time was to insure the 
personal safety of the Emperor and his august family and 
that, should he part with a portion of his forces, he would 
jeopardize His Majesty's person. As for Moscow, he was 
willing to let it go to the dogs. Was it not, he argued, the 
fountain head of revolution? On my part, I argued that 
St. Petersburg was practically safe while Moscow was in 
imminent danger. Our conversation lasted several hours, 
and it was well past midnight when a courier brought a 
note from His Majesty addressed to the Grand Duke. He 
read it and said: "His Majesty requests me to send troops 
to Moscow. I will do so." I urged him to make haste and 
left. The troops dispatched to Moscow included nearly 
the whole of the Semenov regiment and also some cavalry 



THE FIRST SOVIET 283 

and artillery. I understand that the insurrection was sup- 
pressed unsystematically and with excessive cruelty on the 
part of the men of the Semenov regiment. The only ones 
to blame, however, are the civil authorities who did not 
take the necessary measures in due time and who did not 
prevent the demoralization of the local troops. General 
Dubasov was, no doubt, the only man in Moscow who did 
not lose his head and he saved the situation by his courage 
and good faith. As soon as the storm blew over, the St. 
Petersburg troops were withdrawn and General Dubasov 
wrote to the Emperor asking him to be rnagnaminous and 
not to try the arrested insurrectionists by court-martial. 
When consulted by His Majesty, I sided with the General, 
and as long as the two of us were in power the Moscow 
revolutionists were tried by civil courts, although the Min- 
ister of the Interior, Durnovo, advised court-martialing. 

An unsuccessful attempt, as is known, was made on Gen- 
eral Dubasov's life. The bomb which was hurled at his 
carriage killed his adjutant, Count Konovnitzyn, and also 
the driver, if I remember rightly, but left the General un- 
harmed. He resigned from his post when I gave up mine. 
Though His Majesty did not persecute the General, he was 
cold to him, for the reason that on several occasions 
Dubasov expressed opinions which went against His 
Majesty's grain. In 1907 another totally unsuccessful 
attempt was made on Dubasov's life by a youthful revolu- 
tionist. I went to see him several hours after the attempt. 
He was perfectly composed. The only thing that deeply 
worried him was the fate of the youth who had shot at him. 
He feared that Stolypin's court-martial would make short 
shrift of his would-be assassin. "I cannot be calm," he told 
me; "I constantly see before me his boyish, kindly eyes, 
crazed with fear. It is ungodly to execute such irresponsible 
youths." He read me the letter he had written to the 
Emperor begging him to forgive the young terrorist. His 



284 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Majesty replied the next day to the effect that he did not 
think he had the right to hinder the automatic and immu- 
table course of justice, as administered by the newly estab- 
lished military courts. I scarcely know whether to qualify 
this reply as Jesuitic or puerile. His Majesty did not find 
it at all impossible, however, to pardon men convicted of 
crimes against Jews and Liberals. 

I need not say that all those who were arrested in con- 
nection with the attempt were immediately hanged. I might 
add, to complete the story, that the lady who, unwittingly, 
was the source of my information about the plans of the 
revolutionists succeeded in escaping abroad together with 
her lover. 



CHAPTER XI 

THE LOAN THAT SAVED RUSSIA 

SHORTLY after my arrival from my peace mission in 
the United States, I had a heart-to-heart talk with Count 
Dimitry Solski, President of the Imperial Council, about 
Russian home affairs. "Count," he repeated, "you alone 
can save the situation." When I declared that it was my 
intention to keep aloof by all means, and to go abroad for a 
few months' rest, he burst into tears and reproached me for 
my egoism and lack of patriotism. "Go abroad!" he ex- 
claimed. "In the meantime we shall all perish here!" 

Unwilling to shirk the duty I owed to my Monarch and 
country, I did not go abroad. Although I had no illusions 
about the difficulty and thanklessness of the task, I assumed 
the burden of power and bore it for six months. My ap- 
pointment as President took place immediately upon the 
publication of the historical manifesto of October iyth, 
which granted the Russian people civic liberties and a par- 
liamentary regime. 

In October, 1905, the Government had neither troops 
nor funds with which to fight the revolution. I soon per- 
ceived that only two things could save the dynasty and 
enable Russia to weather the revolutionary storm, namely, 
a large foreign loan and the return of the army from Trans- 
baikalia and Manchuria to the European part of the coun- 
try. These two measures, coupled with a determination on 
the part of the Government to carry out in good faith the 
promises of the constitutional manifesto, I was certain, 
would pacify the country. 

285 



286 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

At the time when I assumed the task of ruling the coun- 
try, the bulk of the army, about a million men, was in far 
Manchuria. Those units which remained in Russia were 
largely depleted, both in their personnel and military equip- 
ment. As a matter of fact, the whole vast body of the 
Russian *rmy was in a state of complete physical and moral 
prostration. Owing its existence, as it did, to universal 
military conscription, the army could not help being affected 
by the spirit of general discontent which prevailed in the 
country. Indeed, the most extreme subversive ideas found 
a fertile soil among the military, who felt more keenly than 
the civilian population the pain and disgrace of the disas- 
trous war into which the country had been dragged by its 
irresponsible rulers. It should be noted that actual cases 
of mutinies in the army were rather infrequent, this being 
perhaps due to the energy Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaie- 
vich displayed in dealing with the outbreaks. 

Several days before my appointment I conferred with the 
Minister of War and General Trepov, then commander of 
the St. Petersburg garrison, for the purpose of ascertaining 
to what extent we could depend on the troops in case it 
should be decided to crush the revolution by armed force. 
The impression I gained from that conference was that the 
army was unreliable for two reasons, namely, because of its 
numerical weakness and its dangerous state of mind. This 
circumstance perhaps accounts for His Majesty's decision 
in preferring the road of reforms to the unstinted applica- 
tion of sheer force. I cannot explain His Majesty's choice 
otherwise, for like all weak people he believes most in 
physical force. 

After the ratification of the Portsmouth treaty, in accord- 
ance with the letter of the law, it was necessary to discharge 
the reservists who had been called to the colours for the 
duration of the war. Since these soldiers were the most 
troublesome element of the army and had infected with 



THE LOAN THAT SAVED RUSSIA 287 

revolutionary ideas both the Transbaikalian troops and the 
units stationed in European Russia, I had them demobilized 
immediately. As a result, the army at my disposal dimin- 
ished in. numbers, but it was purged of the troublesome 
element, which was at any moment liable to break out in 
uncontrollable mutinies. Thus, European Russia was prac- 
tically denuded of troops. A sufficient number of them was 
available only in the St. Petersburg, Warsaw and Caucasian 
military districts, but as the situation in those regions was 
threatening the commanders there were extremely reluctant 
to part with their units for the benefit of other regions. 
Central Russia was almost completely deprived of troops. 
The disorganization was so great that the military authori- 
ties themselves did not know how many men were available 
and where they were stationed. Most of the units in the 
rear were far below their normal strength, but the military 
authorities were in many cases ignorant of the extent to 
which the units had been depleted. At the request of the 
local administration, a battalion would be dispatched, aftei* 
long delay, to quell a peasant riot. We would next hear 
that, instead of a battalion no more than, say, a dozen men 
had arrived. We would then turn to the army authorities 
and learn that most of the personnel of the battalion in 
question was at the front. Such cases, I remember, were by 
no means exceptional. This chaotic condition, I later found 
out, was the result of General Kuropatkin's activity as Min- 
ister of War. 

As we had at our disposal neither troops nor rural police, 
it was impossible to combat the agrarian disorders with any 
degree of efficiency. In the course of my premiership I suc- 
ceeded in increasing and improving the police force, both 
municipal and rural. But at the height of the disturbances 
in some places there was no police at all, and even in 
Moscow the force was poorly armed. The policemen often 
reported for duty with empty revolver cases for all arms. 



288 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Since the local administration was in many places de- 
moralized, I conceived the plan of sending His Majesty's 
Adjutant Generals to those districts where the situation was 
most alarming. Thus, Adjutant General Sakharov was 
sent to the government of Saratov, Adjutant General 
Strukov to the governments of Tambov and Voronezh, 
and Adjutant General Dubasov to the governments of 
Chernigov and Kursk. General Dubasov acted very ener- 
getically, but in such a way as not to arouse anyone's ani- 
mosity. He was profoundly impressed by the extent and 
importance of the agrarian disturbances. He urged me, 
I recall, without waiting for the opening of the Duma to 
enact a law whereby the land forcefully seized by the 
peasants would be made their legitimate property. This, 
he argued, would pacify the peasants. As for the land- 
owners, he said, it would be best for them, too, for other- 
wise the peasants would seize all the private estates and. 
leave nothing to their owners. 

The peasant riots were caused by Russian condi- 
tions and also, to a certain extent, by the propaganda 
of the socialists. 

In shaping the course of the revolution an exceedingly 
important role was played by the whole gamut of socialistic 
doctrines, from Tolstoy's Christian communism to "anar- 
chistic socialism," which served as a disguise for plain rob- 
bery, all these teachings having in common a denial of 
property rights as defined in Roman law. During the last 
fifty years the ideas of socialism have advanced with vigor- 
ous strides throughout the whole of Europe. They found 
a fertile soil in Russia, owing to the constant violation of 
every right, especially of property rights, on the part of 
the authorities, and also because of the lack of culture 
among the population. The revolutionists promised the 
factories to the workmen and the land of pomieshchiki 
(landowners) to the peasants, declaring that these com- 



THE LOAN THAT SAVED RUSSIA 289 

modities belong to the people by right, and had been un- 
justly taken away from them. The workers naturally 
responded with strikes, while the peasants began to practise 
what, in imitation of an orator of the French Revolution, 
Deputy Herzenstein in the First Duma called "the illumina- 
tion" of the landowners' estates, i.e., they began to burn 
and loot the property of the landed gentry. 

The Manchurian armies were naturally anxious to get 
home. Owing to the railroad strikes in European Russia 
and in Siberia, the Far East was oftentimes cut off from the 
rest of Russia for weeks together. As a result the most 
fantastic rumours spread among the troops like wildfire. 
Making his way home through Siberia, after the conclusion 
of the Portsmouth treaty, Prince Vasilchikov did not know, 
until he reached Cheliabinsk, whether the Emperor was still 
in Russia, for he had heard rumours to the effect that the 
Imperial family had escaped abroad and that my colleagues 
and myself had been strung up on lamp-posts on the Champ 
de Mars in St. Petersburg. This story I have from His 
Majesty himself. 

I am under the impression that toward the end of 1905 
the army at the front was thoroughly demoralized and revo- 
lutionary. If this was not a matter of common knowledge, 
it is because it was the policy of the military authorities to 
hide the plagues which were corroding the very heart of 
the army. 

The first revolutionary wave, originating in the West, 
moved eastward and infected the Transbaikalian army. A 
movement in the opposite direction began toward the end 
of 1905, some of the discharged soldiers from the front 
bringing the revolutionary germ into the interior of the 
country. Alarming news of the state of mind of the Man- 
churian army had reached St. Petersburg in previous 
months. Under the influence of this news, the Minister of 
Agriculture, Schwanebach, laid before the Committee of 






2 9 o THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Ministers a plan for allotting the crown lands in Siberia 
to the soldiers in active service who would consent to settle 
there. After a short discussion of this singular scheme, the 
committee declined to consider it further, and the whole 
matter came to nothing. 

The strike on the Great Siberian Railroad, coupled with 
the eagerness of the troops to return home, completely dis- 
organized the Eastern Chinese Railway, which circumstance 
added to the dissatisfaction of the army. The railroad 
strikes were responsible for the delay in assembling recruits 
and in transporting the Manchurian armies home. At one 
time the Siberian railroads were in the hands of self-consti- 
tuted bands and organizations which refused to obey the 
governmental authorities. The revolutionists perceived 
tehat no sooner did the troops reach their homes than they 
lost all their revolutionary ardour and turned into a bul- 
wark of law and order. For that reason they made every 
effort to keep up the railroad strikes in Siberia. 

Traffic on the Siberian and Eastern Chinese Railways 
oftentimes ceased completely, and the troops indulged in 
rioting as they made their way westward. Then the strike 
of the telegraph operators came to increase the confusion. 
Day after day passed and the armies were still far away 
from Central Russia, their absence complicating both the 
internal and the international position of the country. I 
repeatedly pointed out the seriousness of the situation to 
Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaievich, to the Minister of 
War, and to the Chief of the General Staff, General Palit- 
zyn. They replied quite correctly that the matter was with- 
in the province of General Linevich, Commander-in-Chief 
of the armies in active service. The only official communi- 
cation I received from the Commander-in-chief throughout 
the six months of my premiership was a dispatch informing 
me that fourteen (I remember that number very distinctly) 
anarchist-revolutionists had arrived at the front to stir up 



THE LOAN THAT SAVED RUSSIA 291 

trouble in the army. I showed this telegram to His Majesty 
and he returned it to me with the following words written 
on the margin : "I hope they will be hanged." 

At this juncture, I hit upon the idea of dispatching two 
military trains, one from Kharbin westward, the other from 
European Russia eastward, under the command of two firm 
and resolute generals, instructed to open up normal traffic 
on the Siberian roads and remove the causes which hin- 
dered the regular functioning of the roads. His Majesty 
was pleased by this idea and adopted my plan. General 
Meller-Zakomelski was placed at the head of the expedition 
which had Moscow as its starting-point, while the train 
dispatched from Kharbin was put under the command of 
General Rennenkampf. The two generals were ordered to 
reopen normal traffic and restore order along the Siberian 
railways at any price. They acquitted themselves of their 
task with eminent success, and the two trains effected a 
junction near Chita. Naturally enough, this extraordinary 
measure could not be carried into effect without severe re- 
pressions. On reaching Chita, which was entirely in the 
hands of revolutionists, General Rennenkampf proceeded to 
execute a number of people. While he was restoring order 
at Chita, my wife once came to me in alarm and showed 
me a telegram sent to her from Brussels, in the name of 
the Russian revolutionary group of that city. It read as 
follows: "If your husband does not immediately cancel 
Rennenkampf's death sentences, he and the following men 
(names follow) will be executed, your daughter and grand- 
son will be killed on the same day." As a matter of fact, 
my daughter lived in Brussels with her husband, K. V. Nary- 
shkin, who served at our Embassy, and they had a one-year 
old boy for whom both my wife and myself had an affec- 
tion almost morbid in its intensity. Of course, I paid no 
heed to this threat, which, by the way, the revolutionists 
failed to carry out. This incident illustrates the perfection 



\ 



292 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

to which the revolutionists carried their system of under- 
ground communication, and also the difficult position in 
which we were in those days. 

Simultaneously Commander-in-Chief Linevich was dis- 
missed and General 'Grodekov appointed in his stead, at my 
recommendation. He succeeded in restoring order in the 
army and transporting the Manchurian armies into the in- 
terior of the country. At my suggestion, the location of the 
troops was altered, with a view to the most effective sup- 
pression of local insurrections and riots. My principle was 
to oppose force to force and to take the most drastic meas- 
ures against an open uprising, but at the same time I 
was against the practice of mass executions months and 
years after order had been restored. 

My next great task was to secure a foreign loan. As 
early as 1904 the need for a foreign loan became apparent. 
At that time our financial system was already giving way 
under the pressure of the war expenditures. In concluding 
our second commercial treaty with Germany in 1904, I suc- 
ceeded in securing Germany's permission to float our loan 
in that country. The next year I made an effort to prepare 
the ground for the loan in France and in the United States, 
where I went on the Portsmouth peace mission. My inten- 
tion was to conclude the loan before the opening of the 
Imperial Duma. As I felt sure that the first Duma would 
be unbalanced and to a certain extent revengeful, I was 
afraid that its interference might thwart the loan nego- 
tiations and render the bankers less tractable. As a result, 
the Government, without funds, would lose the freedom of 
action which is so essential during a period of upheaval. 

I had a keen personal interest in the loan. It must be 
borne in mind that I was responsible for the adoption by 
Russia (in 1896) of the gold standard of currency, and it 
was doubly painful for me to see this standard seriously 
threatened by the financial crisis brought about by the war, 



THE LOAN THAT SAVED RUSSIA 293 

on the one hand, and by the nearsighted policy of the Minis- 
ter of Finances, on the other. He waited for the end of the 
war to conclude a large loan, but he failed to foresee the 
outbreak of the revolution, with its disastrous effect on our 
credit.Y\ 

France was willing to open its money market to us, but 
as a preliminary condition the French Government de- 
manded the conclusion of peace with Japan. When the 
Portsmouth treaty was concluded, new obstacles presented 
themselves, notably the Franco-German conflict over Mo- 
rocco, and the Paris Government made the conclusion of the 
loan contingent upon the peaceable settlement of that con- 
flict. Elsewhere, in my remarks on the Kaiser, I tell the 
story of how I succeeded in having the clash arbitrated by 
an international conference at Algeciras. The conference 
lasted till the end of March, 1906, and until its termination 
the conclusion of the loan was out of the question. 

The loan was to be an international one, but in view of 
its large amount the French group of bankers was to play 
the leading part. In 1905 I opened preliminary negoti- 
ations with Neutzlin, the head of the Banque de Paris et 
des Pays Bas. After the death of Germain, of the Credit 
Lyonnais, the Banque de Paris et des Pays Bas became the 
chief banking institution in the so-called Christian group of 
bankers* syndicates. The other group of banks, known as 
the Jewish group, was headed by the Rothschild firm. Old 
Baron Alphonse Rothschild, with whom I had been on very 
friendly terms, was already dead, and Lord Rothschild of 
London was now the head of the family. Consequently, I 
instructed Rafalovich, our financial agent in Paris, to go to 
London and find out what was the attitude of the Roths- 
childs toward our loan. Raf alovich's reply was to the effect 
that out of respect for Count Witte as a statesman they 
would willingly render full assistance to the loan, but that 
they would not be in a position to do so until the Russian 



294 

Government had enacted legal measures tending to improve 
the conditions of the Jews in Russia. As I deemed it be- 
neath our dignity to connect the solution of our Jewish 
question with the loan, I decided to give up my intention of 
securing the participation of the Rothschilds. 

The Constitutional Democrats ("Cadets") were fully 
aware of the stabilizing effect the loan would have upon the 
Government. Consequently, they sought to defeat my efforts 
to conclude the loan before the opening of the Duma. Their 
representatives, chiefly Prince Dolgoruki and Maklakov, 
acted in Paris, trying to persuade the French Government 
that it was illegal for the Imperial Government to conclude 
the loan without the sanction of the Duma. It is not with- 
out shame, I am sure, that these public leaders, who were 
very decent men for all that, recall this activity of theirs, 
which could hardly be termed patriotic. Their only excuse 
lies in the fact that in those days the greater part of think- 
ing Russia was in a state of intoxication. People were 
actually drunk with the old wine of freedom, which had 
been brewing for many generations. 

As for our press, it did nothing to inspire the foreign 
investor with confidence. For instance, nearly all the papers 
printed the appeal of the revolutionists to the population 
enjoining it to withdraw their deposits from the banks and 
local treasuries, so as to force the Government to cease the 
exchange of credit bills and reduce the Treasury to a state 
of insolvency. On the other hand, the foreign press dis- 
played a great deal of hostility toward us. Here is what 
Rafalovich wrote me from Paris on January 8, 1906: "The 
difficulties of the situation are clearly manifested in the 
attitude of the financial and economic press. While Mr. 
Paul Leroy Beaulieu (an authority on finance) is using all 
the prestige with which his special scientific competence in- 
vests him to reassure and enlighten the public, and while 
Mr. Kergall (editor of La Revue Economique) endeavours 



THE LOAN THAT SAVED RUSSIA 295 

to act in the same direction, there are other publications 
whose utterances seem to be inspired by those feelings of 
hatred and joy which a savage may experience at the sight 
of the dead body of an enemy. . . . The English Econo- 
mist, whose animosity is chronic, speaks of the collapse of 
the gold standard in Russia. Ill-informed, it announces that 
Russia is driven to resort to a forced rate of exchange and 
to the printing of paper money without the corresponding 
deposit of gold. Other papers repeat this yarn that a por- 
tion of Russia's gold resources has been absorbed by the 
purchase of Russian securities abroad made in order to 
stabilize the rates of exchange. ... It is also said that. 
Russia is reduced to the necessity of issuing billets escomp- 
tables (notes at a discount). ... It is the war cry of the 
enemies of Russian credit." 

Already in November, 1905, our money circulation was 
in a very critical state and I found it necessary to keep the 
financial committee informed about the situation. With my 
approval, the committee appointed two of its members, V. 
N. Kokovtzev and Schwanebach, Minister of Agriculture, 
together with the Minister of Finances, I. P. Shipov, to 
watch the transactions of the Imperial Bank, but, of course, 
they were unable to suggest anything to improve matters. 
As the situation was rapidly growing worse and as some of 
the members of the financial committee thought it was pos- 
sible to conclude a foreign loan immediately, I proposed to 
Kokovtzev that he go abroad with full powers to contract 
a loan. I knew very well that before the settlement of the 
Morocco conflict, this was out of the question, but I did not 
judge it possible to take the financial committee into my 
confidence with regard to the political aspect of the situ- 
ation. 

Kokovtzev went to Paris late in December, 1905, and was 
told, of course, by Rouvier that we could not conclude the 
loan before the peaceable termination of the Morocco 



296 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

affair. He also had an interview with President Loubet. 
Kokovtzev succeeded in getting an advance of 100 million 
rubles on account of the future loan. This sum was but a 
drop in the bucket, for the short-term bonds issued by Ko- 
kovtzev in Berlin were soon to fall due. Accordingly I 
asked Kokovtzev to stop in Berlin on his way back and try 
to obtain an extension of time for these bonds. This exten- 
sion he secured, for the reason that the German Govern- 
ment was still undecided as to what course I would follow 
in matters pertaining to Russia's external policy. For, 
though I was instrumental in annulling the monstrous 
Bjorke agreement, I nevertheless made it clear that I was 
in favour of a coalition between Russia, Germany and 
France, which would dominate the whole of Europe, if not 
the world. If this plan, which was my chief political idea, 
was not realized, it was because of insufficient political far- 
sightedness on our part and also on the part of Emperor 
William of Germany. 

I have spoken elsewhere of the interplay of forces which 
determined the course of the Algeciras Conference, and how 
Germany endeavoured to drag out the negotiations so as to 
increase our difficulties and take revenge on me for the 
annulment of the Bjorke treaty. In January, 1906, I de- 
cided to push further the negotiations for the loan, which I 
had initiated in Paris on my way back from the United 
States. As I could not go abroad and as there was no one 
who could be entrusted with the task of conducting the nego- 
tiations, I asked Neutzlin to come to Russia. It was a 
matter of extreme importance that his visit should be a 
secret to the public, for otherwise it would have had an 
undesirable effect upon the course of the Algeciras Confer- 
ence and upon the Russian Stock Exchange. I may mention 
in passing that since I had left the post of Minister of 
Finances, in 1903, the Russian securities had fallen twenty 
per cent. Accordingly, Neutzlin came to Russia incognito 



THE LOAN THAT SAVED RUSSIA 297 

and put up at the palace of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexan- 
drovich, at Tsarskoye Selo. He arrived on February 2nd, 
and his visit lasted five days. In the course of that period 
I had several conferences with Neutzlin, and in the presence 
of the Minister of Finance, Shipov, we agreed upon the 
terms of the loan. At first, Neutzlin insisted that the loan 
should not be realized before the opening of the Duma, but 
I succeeded in convincing him of the undesirability of such 
an arrangement, and it was then agreed that the loan should 
be effected immediately upon the termination of the Alge- 
ciras Conference. It was also agreed that the amount of 
the loan should be made as large zs possible, so as to en- 
able us to get along for a considerable period of time with- 
out new loans and also in order to cancel the temporary loans 
contracted by Kokovtzev in France and in Germany. I 
insisted on 2,750,000,000 francs as the nominal amount of 
the loan. Anticipating upon the course of events, I may say 
that, owing to the treachery of Germany and of the Amer- 
ican syndicate of bankers headed by Morgan, we had to 
reduce the amount to 2,250,000,000 francs 843,750,000 
rubles. Neutzlin insisted on six and a quarter per cent., but 
I could not agree to that rate of interest, and it was fixed at 
six per cent., the loan certificates becoming convertible after 
ten years. The syndicate which was to handle the loan was 
to be made up, we agreed, of French, Dutch, English, Ger- 
man, American, and Russian banking firms. Austrian banks 
were also permitted to participate in the loan. The sums 
realized were to be left in the hands of the syndicate at 
one and a quarter per cent, and then transferred to the 
Russian Government in definite instalments in the course of 
one year. Not less than half of the amount or" the loan the 
syndicate was to take upon itself. We also agreed upon 
the secondary details. Neutzlin returned home, conferred 
with the other members of the syndicate and they all in- 
dorsed the main terms of the agreement which was formu- 



298 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

lated at Tsarskoye Selo. I continued to advise him all the 
while, and until the very conclusion of the loan he turned 
to me personally for instructions. 

In the meantime, Germany continued to obstruct the 
progress of the Algeciras Conference. Privately, I advised 
Rouvier to be more yielding, but our representative at the 
conference, the Spanish Ambassador Count Cassini, was in- 
structed to vote for France in all cases. Germany's claims 
were so unfair that even the representatives of her Allies, 
Italy and Austria, in some cases voted for France. In my 
report to His Majesty upon the loan negotiations I spoke 
about the situation in the following terms: 

I cannot get rid of certain, probably unfounded, suspicions regard- 
ing the conduct of the German Government. The international 
situation is at present such that Germany has an excellent opportunity 
to push France to the wall. Russia is not in a position at present 
to render any considerable military assistance to France. Austria 
and Italy will not stand in Germany's way. As for Great Britain, 
she is unable to help France on land, and there is no doubt but that 
from the military standpoint Germany is perfectly able to give 
France a sound beating. The temptation for Germany is great. 
Even granting that Germany is not thinking of war, she may still 
be bent, on the one hand, upon preventing her neighbor's, i.e., 
Russia's, speedy recovery from a disastrous war, and on the other, 
upon showing France that her salvation lies in a rapprochement with 
Germany. Consequently, I suspect, Germany must have ulterior 
motives in displaying so much interest in the Morocco question, 
which is, properly speaking, of little importance to her. I have 
noticed that Germany's civility and amiability is mere lip service. 

About the same time Count Lamsdorff, Minister of For- 
eign Affairs, sent the following note to our German Am- 
bassador, Count Osten-Sacken: 

France has reached the limit of tractability in agreeing (at the 
Conference) to practically all the points of the latest Berlin proposal. 
The time has now come for Germany to give proof of that peace- 
loving spirit to which both the German Emperor and Prince Biilow 
have repeatedly referred in connection with the Morocco affair. In 



THE LOAN THAT SAVED RUSSIA 299 

spite of their assurances, Germany, failing to see in the changes of 
the clauses relating to the police, which were suggested by France 
(at the Conference) a sufficient guarantee of the international char- 
acter of the police, refused to agree to those changes in the hope that 
France would find another way out of the difficulties. It would be 
highly deplorable if, because of this comparatively insignificant police 
question, on which all the Powers are unanimous, the Algeciras Con- 
ference should be forced to interrupt its deliberations. We refuse to 
believe that Emperor William who, in the presence of our Most 
August Monarch, advocated with firm conviction the preservation 
of peace in the interests of mankind and a rapprochement between 
Germany and France through Russia's instrumentality, that Em- 
peror William should decide to disrupt the Conference and thus not 
only give up his political program but also arouse among the Euro- 
pean Powers an alarm which in its manifold consequences would be 
no less pernicious than open warfare. The German Government 
is quite aware that certain financial operations of the highest impor- 
tance to Russia are contingent upon the successful termination of the 
Algeciras Conference. Only the carrying out of those operations 
will enable the Imperial Russian Government to take the necessary 
measures for the final suppression of the revolutionary movement, 
which has already shown signs of spreading to the neighbouring 
monarchistic countries. The latter have recognized the necessity 
of concerted action against the international anarchist organizations. 
Despite the opinion, which is being spread abroad, that Jewish agita- 
tion prevents Russia from concluding the loan, we are in the posses- 
sion of indisputable information to the effect that only the total 
uncertainty as to the outcome of the Algeciras Conference is forcing 
the French bankers to refrain from financial operations. Should 
Emperor William or the Chancellor in their conversations with you 
touch upon the Morocco affair, you may very frankly state your 
opinion in accordance with this dispatch. 

The reference to Jewish agitation in this telegram is 
based on what His Majesty told Count Lamsdorff and my- 
self. Emperor William had written him, he said, that we 
were unable to conclude the loan not because of the Alge- 
ciras Conference, but because the Jewish bankers refused to 
take part in the operation. On hearing that, I sent the fol- 
lowing dispatch to Raf alovich, our agent in Paris : 



300 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Berlin insistently endeavours to convey the impression that the 
Algeciras Conference has absolutely nothing to do with the possi- 
bility of concluding the loan, that it is the Jews who are thwarting 
and will thwart it, and that the termination of the Conference would 
not in any way change the situation. It is very desirable that you 
should speak on that subject to Rouvier and that I should submit 
Rouvier's opinion to whom it may concern. 

Rafalovich's reply, which I submitted to His Majesty, 
was as follows : 

Rouvier replied: "Berlin views the situation in a false light, for, 
not the Hebrews, but all the people whose opinion carries weight 
consider the transaction impossible before the political horizon clears 
up, that is, before the Morocco affair is settled in a fashion guaran- 
teeing European peace." I add: the papers create a pessimistic 
impression. It is my opinion that the German Emperor holds the 
key to our transaction. 

In reply to Count Lamsdorff's telegram, our ambassador 
wired (on February 9th) that, in the opinion of Prince 
Biilow, the conclusion of the loan was impossible not be- 
cause of the Algeciras Conference, but because of the revo- 
lutionary movement in Russia. As for the Conference, the 
prince believed that it was necessary for us to urge France 
to be more tractable. Count Lamsdorff's reply follows : 

Prince Billow's words convey the odd impression that his atten- 
tion is chiefly concentrated on our loan and Russia's internal affairs. 
The two depend upon the outcome of the Algeciras Conference, 
and it seems to me that Germany as a monarchistic Power is con- 
siderably affected by the Russian revolutionary movement. In your 
conferences with the Chancellor it is necessary to emphasize Berlin's 
neglect of the conditions set by the French delegates for an under- 
standing. Germany's intolerance was once more clearly manifested 
in the Chancellor's arguments presented to you. He entirely over- 
looked all the concessions made by the Paris Government. . . . 
Consequently, we hardly believe we could exert any pressure on 
France, which has given conclusive proofs of its conciliatory spirit. 
Should the Conference be disrupted, the opinion will no doubt prevail 



THE LOAN THAT SAVED RUSSIA 301 

among all the Powers that the failure of the Conference was due 
exclusively to Germany's aggressive designs. 

Seeing that Germany continued to make difficulties, I 
took advantage of the permission the German Emperor had 
given me to communicate with him through Count Eulen- 
burg and I appealed to him directly, asking him to speed up 
the deliberations of the Algeciras Conference. My effort 
was labor lost. The Emperor informed me that he could 
not concede certain conditions without prejudicing Ger- 
many's prestige and ended with the usual advice to exert 
pressure upon France for the purpose of rendering her more 
tractable. I was indignant at Germany's conduct, and on 
one occasion I left no doubt in the German ambassador's 
mind as to my feelings in the matter. Under the impres- 
sion of our conversation the German ambassador sent to 
von Biilow a dispatch, which, together with the Chancellor's 
reply, fell into my hands, although neither document was 
intended for me by its author. "His Imperial Majesty's 
policy," said the ambassador among other things, "is di- 
rected as before toward peace, harmony and confidence. 
It does not follow, however, that we can sacrifice our firmly 
established rights and interests, when they are in danger. 
The failure of the Conference, with its numberless conse- 
quences, will be avoided if France agrees to terms which 
are sufficiently in keeping with international law." In his 
reply, the Chancellor pointed out that the removal of Del- 
casse was not a concession to Germany, as I insisted, but 
"an act of internal French policy." 

Several days later Rouvier's Government fell, and was 
succeeded by a cabinet formed by Sarrien. It was in those 
days that a sensational polemic arose between the Paris 
Temps and the German newspapers about an article in 
Temps relating to an instruction given by us to Ambassador 
Cassini. The incident was started, Count Lamsdorff ex- 



302 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

plained to me, through a false rumour spread by the Ger- 
mans. For some time the German Chancellor had been set- 
ting on foot such rumours, intended to retard the proceed- 
ings of the Algeciras Conference and to set the Powers at 
variance. 

As soon as Sarrien's cabinet was formed, I instructed 
Rafalovich to call on Minister of Finances Poincare and 
report to him the state of the negotiations of the loan. 
Neutzlin, on his part, was also instructed by me to confer 
with Minister Poincare on the subject of our loan. Early 
in March Rafalovich met first M. Henry, Director of the 
Commercial and Consular Division of the Ministry of For- 
eign Affairs, and then the Minister of Finances himself. 
After initiating these two statesmen into all the details of 
the situation, Rafalovich stated that, in my opinion, there 
existed a formal agreement between Rouvier and myself. 
According to that agreement, he said, I was to make every 
effort to regulate the Morocco problem, while the French 
Government, upon the successful termination of the Alge- 
ciras Conference, was to render us every possible assistance 
toward the conclusion of the loan, the basic terms of which 
were agreed upon between myself and Neutzlin. 

The new cabinet, particularly Poincare, assumed a fav- 
ourable attitude toward the matter and spent some time 
in studying it, but they could not alter the essential fact, 
namely, that until the termination of the Algeciras Confer- 
ence the conclusion of the loan was out of the question. 
Finally, in spite of Germany's efforts, the Conference came 
to a peaceable end. On March i6th, Count Lamsdorff wrote 
me: "From a very confidential source (Chancellor von 
Billow's communication to Ambassador Schoen) I learn that 
Prince von Bulow considers the Algeciras Conference suc- 
cessfully terminated. He is now trying to convince Ger- 
many that he had achieved all she could desire." Shortly 
before, Neutzlin informed me that, in case of a successful 



THE LOAN THAT SAVED RUSSIA 303 

outcome of the Conference, our representative would have 
to come to Paris about the loth of April (new style) for the 
purpose of giving a final form to the agreement and signing 
the contract with the syndicate. In his letter Neutzlin 
pointed out that Poincare was constantly raising the ques- 
tion of the legal right of the Imperial Government to con- 
tract a loan without the sanction of the Duma. I replied 
to the effect that when the moment for concluding the loan 
came I would prove our right to the satisfaction of all con- 
cerned. Thereupon, I asked Professor Martens, reputed 
in Europe as an authority on international law, and a mem- 
ber of the Council of the Ministry of the Interior, to look 
into the matter. Professor Martens composed a memo- 
randum, in French, which proved conclusively the right of 
the Russian Government to carry out the transaction. This 
document I handed to our plenipotentiary, who was in- 
trusted with the task of signing the contract with the syn- 
dicate of bankers. I also transmitted to Rafalovich Neutz- 
lin's recommendations about the negotiations with the 
press, preliminary to the conclusion of the loan. 

As it was clear that the Conference was drawing to a 
successful end, I asked His Majesty to appoint a special 
representative empowered to go to Paris, settle some of the 
secondary points of the agreement and sign the contract. 
His Majesty named Kokovtzev, although I recommended 
the Director of the Imperial Bank Timashev, who is now 
Minister of Commerce. 

Neutzlin went to London to confer with Revelstock, the 
representative of the London banks, Fischel, German 
banker, of the Mendelssohn firm, and Morgan, senior, of 
the United States, and on March 2 2nd, he wired to me about 
the result of these negotiations. The representative of the 
German bankers, he informed me, was waiting for a per- 
mission from his Government to take part in the loan, and 
Morgan's attitude was less favourable. It will be remem- 



3 o 4 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

bered that I had secured the American banker's promise to 
participate in the loan during my stay in the United States. 
The next day Neutzlin telegraphed to me from London that 
the German Government, Fischel told him, had forbidden 
the German banking firms to take part in the loan. Thus, 
Germany first protracted the Algeciras Conference in the 
hope that, unable to contract a loan, we would cease the 
free exchange of credit notes for gold. Germany would 
have greatly profited thereby, for Russia would then be at 
the mercy of Berlin stock exchange speculation, as was the 
case before I introduced the gold standard. She failed, 
however, to reach her goal. Then at the last moment, on 
the very eve of the conclusion of the loan, she treacher- 
ously ordered her bankers to refrain from participation in 
that transaction. Morgan followed suit and also refused 
to participate in the loan. That American banker enjoyed 
the German Emperor's favour, and despite his democratic 
feelings as an American, highly valued the attention of that 
exalted crowned^personage. 

To Neutzlin's communication I replied as follows : 

I have given you warning of Germany's disposition. Berlin was 
waiting for a pretext to raise difficulties. Their latest step is essen- 
tially an act of vengeance for Algeciras and for our rapprochement 
with England. Under these circumstances there is no reason why 
the other countries should reduce their share; on the contrary, it 
would be logical for them to increase it. Likewise, there is no 
reason why the transaction should be postponed; rather should it 
be concluded in advance of the projected time. 

I was nevertheless certain that the German money market 
would be thrown open to us privately, in spite of the fact 
that the Berlin banking firms would not be in the syndicate. 
I placed especial confidence in the Mendelssohn banking 
houses, which for nearly one hundred years had been faith- 
ful to Russia's financial interests and with whose head, 
Ernest Mendelssohn, I was on excellent terms. On the 



THE LOAN THAT SAVED RUSSIA 305 

night of March 24th, I sent to Rafalovich the following 
dispatch : 

In revenge for Algeciras and in fear that the loan would unite 
us closer to France and lay the foundation for a rapprochement with 
Great Britain, the German Government at the last moment refused 
to authorize the participation of the German bankers in the inter- 
national syndicate. To find a plausible pretext, the German Gov- 
ernment issued a loan unexpectedly. But two weeks ago, when 
Mendelssohn came to St. Petersburg with instructions, from his 
Government, there was no question of a refusal. The step was 
taken by the German Government on the spur of the moment, 
in order to upset the affair and as if to tell us: "All the while you 
have supported France, now you will see that you have made a 
blunder." Inform the French newspapers about this intrigue in 
proper form. 

The refusal of the Germans and Americans to participate 
in the loan had no effect on the English. Neutzlin sent 
me a telegram to that effect immediately upon Fischel's 
declaration. The Algeciras affair was the first manifesta- 
tion in many years of a growing rapprochement between 
Russia and England. At the Conference Russia and Great 
Britain showed the world an example of complete solidarity 
in giving their full support to France. Nor did the Aus- 
trian banks withdraw. Italy did refuse to participate, but 
for purely financial reasons. She had just succeeded in 
stabilizing her financial system. Several years ago the Ital- 
ian king, while on a stay in Russia, presented me with an 
Italian gold coin, saying that he had brought me the first 
gold coin struck at the Italian mint, as a fitting gift to the 
man who introduced the gold standard in the great Russian 
empire. 

On the 2Oth of March I received Kokovtzev and per- 
sonally explained to him the loan situation in all its details. 
I also handed in to him a statement of the terms to which 
we agreed and gave him most definite instructions as to his 



306 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

official mission. On March 26th, if I remember rightly, 
he left for Paris, accompanied by Vyshnegradski, one of my 
former collaborators in the Ministry of Finances, who was 
an expert in credit transactions and whose presence was a 
guarantee that no blunder would be committed on our 
part. On the 3rd of April, the loan contract was signed 
by Kokovtzev, as the official Russian plenipotentiary, and 
by the representatives of the international syndicate of 
bankers. Several days later the envoys returned to Russia 
with the text of the contract in their hands. It was trans- 
mitted to me and subsequently laid before the financial 
committee by the Minister of Finances, Shipov. Having 
examined and ratified it, the committee submitted it to His 
Majesty for confirmation. 

Ernest von Mendelssohn Bartoldi, head of the banking 
house of Mendelssohn & Company, the chief banking insti- 
tution of Germany, dispatched to me, through Vyshnegrad- 
ski, the following letter, dated April 5th (i8th) : 

I avail myself of Mr. Vyshnegradski's passage here to send you 
these lines in order to congratulate you upon the achievement of the 
great undertaking and to tell you with what profound satisfaction 
we see this important transaction finally brought to a happy consum- 
mation. I should like very much to tell you with what feelings of 
regret we find ourselves out of action after all the pains we have 
taken and all the efforts we have made. But you know it all, and 
I need not resort to words to express our state of mind to you. The 
only thing which we could do and which we keep on doing, is to 
endeavor everywhere abroad to arouse and strengthen the interest 
in the new loan, and that not only in theory through correspondence 
and conferences with our various friends, but also in practice. In 
this connection I deem it necessary to tell you (but to you alone, 
since for reasons which you will readily understand it is absolutely 
necessary that all this be kept in strictest secrecy) that we have in- 
vested in the loan at Paris, London, Amsterdam, and St. Petersburg 
separately, so as to keep our transaction in each of these four places 
unknown to the others. Naturally, we have done so in order to 
produce the greatest possible effect on the respective houses and to 



THE LOAN THAT SAVED RUSSIA 307 

nip in the bud the unpleasant impression which might be produced 
by Germany's withdrawal. In fact, I believe that this policy on 
our part has already borne fruit, and the uneasiness which had 
manifested itself here and there has been entirely eliminated. We 
are very nappy indeed to see matters take this turn ! I am very glad 
to be able to tell you that we perceive tendencies very favorable to 
the transaction in financial circles. 

It appears from this letter of the most prominent Ger- 
man banker that this time, too, the German Government 
had missed fire. In fact, as early as April lyth (3Oth) 
Neutzlin, the chief representative of the syndicate, wrote 
me as follows: 

The international loan is an accomplished fact. The last stage 
was reached yesterday. This great financial victory is to-day the 
subject of general conversation, and Russian credit, for the first time 
since the beginning of the war, is in the process of striking root in a 
considerably enlarged territory. Having reported this triumph, to 
which, thanks to your Excellency, I have had the honor of contribut- 
ing my share from first to last, I turn to your Excellency filled with 
profound gratefulness for the confidence you have shown me through- 
out the course of the negotiations. In abandoning, in the course of 
our conversation at Tsarskoye Selo, the plans prepared beforehand, 
your Excellency gave me the full measure of your approval, which 
alone sustained and encouraged me during the critical stages which 
the negotiations traversed. 

The loan was indeed an achievement of the highest im- 
portance. It was the largest foreign loan in the history 
of the modern nations. After the Franco-Prussian War, 
Thiers succeeded in securing a somewhat greater loan, but 
it was largely an internal loan, while this one was almost 
exclusively subscribed abroad. By means of it Russia main- 
tained intact its gold standard of currency, which I intro- 
duced in 1896. This, in its turn, served to sustain all the 
basic principles of our financial system, which were mostly 
inaugurated by myself, and which Kokovtzev preserved 
with laudable firmness. It was these principles that enabled 



3 o8 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Russia to recover after that ill-starred war and the subse- 
quent senseless turmoil, known as the Russian revolution. 
This loan enabled the Imperial Government to weather all 
the vicissitudes of the period extending from 1906 to 1910 
by providing it with funds, which together with the troops 
recalled from Transbaikalia restored consistency and assur- 
ance to the acts of the Government. 

In view of all this, what was the Emperor's attitude 
toward the loan? His Majesty fully appreciated how im- 
portant it was to conclude the loan and what a disaster 
failure to secure it would mean. In all financial matters 
throughout the time when I held the office of Minister of 
Finances he had full confidence in me and did not in the least 
thwart my activity. In this case, too, as on previous occa- 
sions, he granted me full liberty of action, as far as this 
financial operation depended upon political action. He 
stood there like a spectator, as it were, watching a great 
politico-financial game of chess, but a spectator fully cog- 
nizant of the momentous importance of the game's outcome 
for Russia and deeply engrossed in its course. 

In the months of February and March I had already be- 
gun to lose patience with the reactionary attacks directed 
against the reform of October lyth. In certain circles people 
began to brand me as a traitor. At the same time, Dur- 
novo, the Temporary Governors-General and others carried 
out many measures without my knowledge, although the 
responsibility for those measures fell upon me as the head 
of the Government. As a result I began to intimate that I 
had no objection to surrendering my post to a man enjoying 
more confidence. The invariable reply was to the effect 
that this was impossible before the conclusion of the loan. 
The Emperor was fully aware of the fact that I alone could 
negotiate it: first, because of my prestige in financial circles 
abroad; second, because of my vast experience in financial 



THE LOAN THAT SAVED RUSSIA 309 

affairs. The following is from a letter written to me by 
His Majesty in his own hand and dated April I5th: 

The successful conclusion of the loan forms the best page in the 
history of your ministerial activity. It is for the Government a great 
moral triumph and a pledge of Russia's undisturbed and peaceful de- 
velopment in the future. 

It is obvious that the Emperor fully appreciated the sig- 
nificance of the loan. 

In concluding the story of the loan, I wish to return to 
Kokovtzev. On arriving from Paris, with the contract in 
his hands, he came to see me and congratulated me upon 
my success. I thanked him for having punctually acquitted 
himself of the mission with which he had been entrusted. 
Thereupon he asked me whether I could not obtain for him 
a gratuity in the form of 80,000 rubles, the sum to be drawn 
from the loan. This demand, at a time when our finances 
were in an extremely critical condition, put me out. Unable 
to collect my wits and find a suitable answer, I told him that 
I would take the matter up with the Minister of Finances, 
Shipov. I went to Shipov and retold him my conversation 
with Kokovtzev. 

"Kokovtzev," I observed to Shipov, "apparently thinks 
that it is customary for Ministers of Finances and their col- 
laborators to receive bonuses from the sum of a loan at its 
conclusion. He forgets," I added, "that the practice was 
abolished by Alexander III." 

Kokovtzev's demarche surprised Shipov and aroused his 
indignation. I asked the latter to confer with Kokovtzev, 
with whom he was on good terms, and advise him not to 
raise that question again. It was then that Kokovtzev turned 
to the chairman of the Imperial Council, Count Solski, in 
an effort to procure for himself in connection with the loan 
a reward in another form. Count Solski spoke to me about 
the matter, and as I raised no objections, Kokovtzev was 



3 io THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

granted the Order of Alexander Nevski accompanied by an 
official announcement. 

Finally, the Imperial Duma opened, I retired, and the 
Goremykin ministry was formed. The head of the cabinet 
offered the portfolio of Minister of Finances to Kokovtzev, 
who came to ask my opinion about the offer. I advised him 
to accept it. Later, to my surprise, he declared that Rus- 
sia's financial situation had been saved by the 1906 loan. 
He also told, at some length, what an arduous task it had 
been for him to secure it and what an ordeal he underwent 
as director of the transaction. In a word, our most esteemed 
Vladimir Nikolaievich [i.e., Kokovtzev] intended to take 
advantage of the fact that no one in the Duma knew how 
the financial operation was actually carried out. He hoped 
to impose upon everyone the belief that he, Vladimir Nikol- 
aievich, was the saviour of Russia. The whole man is in 
that gesture 1 ... Because of such statements on his part, 
I have collected all the documents relating to the loan of 
1906, which had remained in my hands. Some of the docu- 
ments I have utilized above. 

Thus, I was upon the whole successful in dealing with 
the military and financial situation. But Russia was unable 
to reap the benefit of my triumph over our great difficulties, 
for, unfortunately, the ruling group was not enlightened 
and generous enough honestly to adhere to the principles 
announced in the constitutional manifesto of October 17, 
1905. 

The manifesto was drawn up hastily and until the last 
moment I did not know whether His Majesty would sign 
it. Had it not been for Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaie- 
vich, he would not perhaps have done it. It is noteworthy 
that immediately upon the promulgation of the manifesto 
the Grand Duke embraced the creed of the Black Hun- 
dreds. Prince A. D. Obolensky,one of the authors of the 
manifesto, was in a state of neurasthenia at the time when 



THE LOAN THAT SAVED RUSSIA 311 

he took part in its composition. Several days after the 
publication of the act this earnest advocate of the manifesto 
declared to me that his participation in the movement for 
the manifesto had been the greatest sin of his life. In the 
days immediately preceding the publication of the mani- 
festo, His Majesty conducted two parallel sets of confer- 
ences. I participated in one, Goremykin in the other. 
This extreme duplicity at such a critical time greatly dis- 
couraged me. 

As a matter of fact, I was rather opposed to the pub- 
lication of a constitutional manifesto, and I gave much 
thought to the alternative plan of setting up a military dic- 
tatorship. The original text of the document was drafted 
against my will and behind my back. Seeing, however, that 
the high spheres were intent upon issuing the manifesto, I 
insisted that my own version of it should be adopted, if I 
was to be appointed Prime Minister. 

The effect of the act of October I7th was in many respects 
salutary. Thus, for instance, the manifesto destroyed that 
unity of front which made the camp of the opposition so 
formidable. It sobered the country down, so that the voice 
of patriotism was heard in the land again, and the proper- 
tied people girt their loins and arose in defence of their 
possessions. But it also had its serious drawbacks. The 
manifesto came as a bolt from the blue. Most of the pro- 
vincial authorities did not understand what happened, and 
many were clearly out of sympathy with the new course of 
policy. As the manifesto came unexpectedly, the regions 
which had already been in a state of tension were thrown 
into a fever by its sudden appearance. Violent outbreaks, 
both revolutionary and counter-revolutionary, took place 
all over the country, the reactionary manifestations involv- 
ing, of course, pogroms. The latter were organized or, at 
least, encouraged by the local authorities. Thus the mani- 
festo actually stimulated disorder. That was what I feared, 



3 i2 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

and that was why I opposed the idea of issuing a manifesto. 
Furthermore, it laid the imprint of undue haste upon all 
the other acts of the Government. 

I did not for a moment doubt the necessity of a parlia- 
mentary regime for the country. In those days even the 
conservatives advocated a constitution. In fact, there were 
no conservatives in Russia on the eve of October 17, 1905. 
The manifesto cut Russia's past from her present as with a 
knife. The historical operation was surely necessary, but 
it should have been performed with greater care and more 
precautions. Yet, I thank the Lord that the constitution 
has been granted. It is far better that the past has been 
cut off, even though somewhat roughly and hurriedly, than 
if it had been slowly sawed off with a blunt saw wielded by 
a bungling surgeon. 

Everybody understood that the act of October iyth 
marked an historical turning-point of great significance. The 
truly enlightened element, which had preserved its faith in 
the political decency of the ruling powers, perceived that 
the dream of several generations, to which, beginning with 
the Decembrists, so many noble lives were sacrificed, had 
come true. As for the embittered and the unbalanced, they 
felt that the chief representatives of the old order, above 
all the Monarch himself, should have gone into the scrap- 
heap with the ancient regime. For did not Nicholas II 
actually ruin Russia and cast her off the pedestal on which 
she had stood? Many also suspected and their suspi- 
cions proved eminently true that the constitution had been 
granted by the Emperor in a fit of panic and that as soon 
as his position improved he would so manipulate the con- 
stitution as to annul it and turn it into a ghastly farce. 

In October, 1905, a feeling of profound dejection reigned 
at the court. The following incident will plainly show how 
deep that feeling was. In those days we used to go to 
Peterhof by steamer to attend the official sessions, for the 



THE LOAN THAT SAVED RUSSIA 313 

railway workers were on strike. Once, Adjutant General 
Count Benckendorf , a brother of our ambassador in London, 
happened to be with us on board the steamer. A sensible, 
educated man, very much devoted to the Emperor, he be- 
longs to the few noblemen who lend the splendour of their 
culture to the throne. Count Benkendorf regretted, he said 
among other things to N. I. Vuich, who accompanied me, 
that their Majesties had five children (four princesses and 
the poor heir Alexis, a very nice boy, they say). Should 
the Imperial family have to leave Peterhof by steamer to 
seek shelter abroad, he explained, the children would be a 
great hindrance. 

To show to what extent people, even intellectually promi- 
nent people, lost their heads in those days, I shall cite the 
following rather amusing and at the same time disconcert- 
ing incident. In 1906, at Vichy, where I had come for my 
health, after having resigned my office of president of the 
Council of Ministers, I was visited by the celebrated Profes- 
sor Mechnikov. I had known Professor Mechnikov in my 
youth at the time when he taught zoology at the University 
of Odessa, from which I had graduated. In those days he 
was a liberal, a Red, while I held the conservative views to 
which I am still faithful. As a matter of fact, it was be- 
cause of his liberal ideas that he was forced to leave the 
University of Odessa and go abroad, where he was wel- 
comed at the Institut Pasteur. 

The celebrated scientist came down all the way from 
Paris to consult me on a business matter. At the Institut 
Pasteur, he told me, he received the scanty salary of 3,000 
francs a year, on which of course, he could not live. His 
main income, amounting to 8,000 rubles a year, he derived 
from his wife's landed property, situated in Russia. He 
had just been offered a chair at Oxford University, he con- 
tinued, with a salary of 3,000, but he would not even think 
of leaving the Institut Pasteur, where he acquired a world- 



3 i4 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

wide reputation, were it not for the fear that he might lose 
his Russian income, in view of the movement for the expro- 
priation of landowners, which, he understood, was on foot 
in our country. Should the expropriation be effected, he 
concluded, he would be unable to live in Paris and would 
have to accept the chair at Oxford. I assured the alarmed 
scientist that should compulsory expropriation on a large 
scale take place, which was unlikely the owners would 
be duly compensated, and thereby allayed his fears. 

In the course of our talk this great scientist actually 
found it possible to blame me for having killed too few 
people. He had a theory of his own with regard to the 
course of action which I should have followed when I stood 
at the helm. According to that scheme, I should have sur- 
rendered to the revolutionists Petrograd, or Moscow, or 
even a whole province. Then, several months later, I should 
have besieged and taken the revolutionary stronghold, 
shooting down several tens of thousands of men. Accord- 
ing to the learned professor, that would have put an end 
to the revolution once and for all. In support of his theory, 
Mechnikov cited the example of Thiers in his dealings with 
the Communards. What ignorance and aberration! And 
to think that some Russians listened with bated breath to 
that plan of most brutal premeditated provocation! To 
begin with, Thiers did not create the Paris Commune by 
artificial means. Furthermore, in storming the Com- 
mune he was backed up by the Popular Assembly, elected 
by universal suffrage. He was doing the will of the whole 
of France. With regard to the repressions, he was in the 
position of one who had by every available means to re- 
strain, not to goad, the Popular Assembly. If a popular 
assembly had been elected in Russia by universal suffrage, 
after the granting of the constitutional manifesto of Octo- 
ber 1 7th, it would have demanded a complete cessation of all 
executions. Furthermore, it would no doubt have demanded 



THE LOAN THAT SAVED RUSSIA 315 

the Emperor's abdication and the trial of all those respon- 
sible for the shame and horror of the Russo-Japanese War. 
As a result, there would have broken out a fratricidal civil 
war, ending in the secession of some of our border provinces 
and the occupation of a portion of our territory by foreign 
troops. 

It soon became clear to everyone concerned that the posi- 
tion of the dynasty and of the regime generally was not as 
insecure as appeared at first. The revolutionary ardour of 
the educated proved to be but intellectual itching and the 
result of idleness. Then came repentance and, with it, a 
systematic attempt on the part of the ruling clique to nul- 
lify the act of October iyth. As a result, General Trepov, 
the Court Commandant, became the irresponsible head of 
the Government; while I, on whom rested the entire weight 
of responsibility, was reduced to the role of a figurehead. 
As early as January, 1906, I declared to Grand Duke 
Nikolai Nikolaievich that as soon as I contracted the loan 
and evacuated Manchuria I would resign my post, for the 
reason that I found it impossible to act the part of a screen 
for men and measures I opposed. I did not wish to be a 
cat's-paw for General Trepov and Grand Duke Nicholas, 
and a shield for the Black Hundreds. I resigned in April. 



CHAPTER XII 

MY PREMIERSHIP 

AT the conference with His Majesty which preceded the 
publication of the constitutional manifesto, I was exceed- 
ingly cautious in the expression of my opinions. True, I 
stated my convictions, which were later embodied in my 
report to His Majesty, without the slightest equivocation. 
I did not hesitate to draw his attention to the fact that 
should, God forbid, anything fatal happen to him,* the 
dynasty would be represented by the baby Emperor and the 
regent, Mikhail Alexandrovich, who is completely unpre- 
pared for the task of ruling the Empire, a situation 
fraught with grave dangers for both the dynasty and the 
country, especially at a time of mighty revolutionary up- 
heaval. It was therefore, necessary, I argued, to seek sup- 
port for the political regime in the people, however deficient 
and unreliable the social consciousness of the uncultured 
masses may be. It was painful for me thus to speak to my 
Monarch, whom I had known since the days of his youth, 
whom I had served since the very beginning of his reign and 
who was the son of a man and ruler I had literally wor- 
shipped. Yet, had I failed to tell the Emperor the whole 
truth as I understood it, I would consider myself remiss of 
my direct moral duty. 

While I was thus quite outspoken, nevertheless, I repeat- 
edly told the Emperor that I might be in the wrong, and I 
urged him to take counsel with other statesmen in whom he 
had faith. It goes without saying that I did not advise 
him to do it on the sly, nor did I intimate that he should 

316 



MY PREMIERSHIP 317 

seek light from either such nonentities as Goremykin or 
from the court flunkeys. I did not conceal from His Maj- 
esty that, in my opinion, the situation was fraught with 
great difficulties and dangers. Seeing that he was bent upon 
placing the burden of power on my shoulders, I made use 
on one occasion of an allegory, in order to present to him 
the situation as I saw it. I likened His Majesty to a man 
who must cross a stretch of heavy sea. Several routes are 
urged upon him, I said, and several ships offered by differ- 
ent seamen. No matter what route is selected and what 
ship is boarded some danger and much injury is inevitable. 
I believed, I asserted, that both my route and my boat were 
the least dangerous and the most advisable from the stand- 
point of Russia's future. But should His Majesty accept 
my route and boat, this is what would happen. No sooner 
will he put to sea than the boat will begin to pitch and 
roll; later storms may come and probably damage the boat. 
It is then that wise counsellors could intimate that His 
Majesty ought to have chosen another route and trusted his 
own destiny and that of the country to another vessel. 
Hence doubts, hesitations, and plotting would arise and 
greatly endanger the public cause. 

His Majesty protested and assured me of his unqualified 
confidence. I had, however, no illusions as to my Mon- 
arch's character. I knew that, devoid of either will or 
statesmanlike purpose, he was the plaything of all manner 
of evil influences, and that his personal peculiarities would 
add to the difficulties of the situation. I saw clearly that the 
near future held many bitter experiences in store for me 
and that in the end I would have to part with His Majesty 
without having accomplished my appointed task. The his- 
tory of my brief premiership (October 20, 1905 April 
20, 1906) fully bears out my predictions and justifies my 
apprehensions. 

I found myself at the helm, essentially against my own 



3 i8 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WlfTE 

will. His Majesty was forced to resort to me for the 
simple reason that his favourites, such as Goremykin, Gen- 
eral Ignatyev and General Trepov, were scared by the revo- 
lutionary terrorists and lost themselves in the chaos of con- 
tradictory measures, for which they themselves were respon- 
sible. 

Immediately upon my nomination as President of the 
Imperial Council I made it clear that the Procurator of the 
Holy Synod Pobiedonostzev, could not remain in office, for 
he definitely represented the past. His participation in my 
ministry, I argued, was incompatible with the inauguration 
of the new regime and out of keeping with the spirit of the 
times. As his successor I recommended Prince Alexey Dim- 
itriyevich Obolenski. His Majesty at once agreed to my 
proposal and appointed Prince Obolenskyto succeed Pobie- 
donostzev, who was nominated ordinary member of the 
Imperial Council. It was owing to my intercession that 
the venerable old statesman was granted certain privileges, 
such as the use of the apartments which he had occupied in 
his capacity of Procurator of the Holy Synod, and that His 
Majesty had the delicacy of himself announcing his decision 
to Podiedonostzev, instead of informing him about it by 
means of an official rescript. The Emperor's behaviour in 
this matter is highly characteristic of the heartlessness and 
unceremoniousness with which he is accustomed to treat his 
old servants. Pobiedonostzev had known His Majesty since 
the latter's early childhood and for many years he had been 
the preceptor of the Czarevich. Since, however, the pupil 
was never called upon to recite, the teacher did not know 
whether or not the young Nicholas had profited by the 
instruction. Pobiedonostzev expressed himself to that 
effect on one occasion in the course of a conversation with 
me. 

Simultaneously, it was decided to dismiss Minister of In- 
struction, General Glazov, who held his office by sheer mis* 



MY PREMIERSHIP 319 

understanding, and also Bulygin, Minister of the .interior. 
The portfolio of Minister of Education I offered to Pro- 
fessor Tagantzev, a criminalist well known in the academic 
world, a member of the Imperial Council and of the Senate, 
and a man of moderately liberal views. The professor de- 
clared that he was in poor health and desired a day's space 
for consideration. In those days everyone was in poor 
health. The following day Tagantzev came to see me, 
accompanied by Postnikov, now director of St. Petersburg 
Polytechnic, whom I designed for the post of Assistant Min- 
ister of Instruction. The professor was in a state of visible 
excitement. He declared that he was not in a position to 
accept my offer and when I attempted to argue with him 
he clutched his head and ran out of my study shouting: "I 
cannot, I cannot." I followed him, but he had seized his 
coat and hat and was gone. In this connection I may ob- 
serve that in those stormy days the thought of getting a 
bullet or a bomb kept many a man from accepting a minis- 
terial portfolio. 

My next candidate for the Minister of Instruction was 
Count Ivan Ivanovich Tolstoy, the Vice President of the 
Academy of Fine Arts. An alumnus of the University of 
St. Petersburg, the count had been for many years direc- 
tor of the Academy of Fine Arts. I expected that the Em- 
peror would have no objection to this appointment. 

I did not choose Count Tolsoy for his academic ability 
alone. In the time of a revolution the post of Minister of 
Education is a militant post and requires not only a tech- 
nically competent official, but also a man of conservative 
views, who would be both respected and feared. During 
the strikes in our institutions of learning, when many of the 
authorities became mere toys in the hands of the students, 
Count Tolstoy proved that he was not a man to be trifled 
with. The students at the Academy, however, had a deep 
respect for the count. I felt certain that the count would 



320 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

not indulge in radicalism. At the time when the Emperor 
parted with the Minister of Education, Vannovski, because 
of his excessive liberalism, the Grand Duke recommended 
Count Tolstoy for this post. At that time, however, the 
Emperor doubted the wisdom of appointing the count, fear- 
ing that his conservatism would arouse the indignation of 
the students. 

I invited the count to my study and asked him to accept 
the post of Minister of Education. Count Tolstoy at first 
declined. He explained, without affectation, that he did 
not think himself sufficiently competent to accept the port- 
folio. He advised me to invite someone more capable of 
bearing the responsibilities of this ministerial office. I ex- 
plained to him that in these dangerous times few men could 
be found who were willing to accept this post, and that I 
could delay the formation of the cabinet no longer. 

Then the count gave in, thinking it unpatriotic, as he told 
me, to refuse a post of responsibility at a time of crisis, and 
to decline to lend me his assistance in carrying out the prin- 
ciples proclaimed in the manifesto of October iyth. His 
Majesty confirmed the appointment without delay. 

I now had to choose a Minister of the Interior. 

Prior to the October revolution, Piotr Nikolaievich Dur- 
novo, the Assistant Minister of the Interior, hinted to me 
on several occasions that he was the only official qualified 
for the post of Minister of the Interior. 

His experience was really extensive. He began his career 
as a naval officer. During the change in the judicial system 
of Russia he became Assistant Attorney General in Kiev. 
Count Palen, the Minister of Justice, told me he knew Dur- 
novo back in the 'yo's and valued him highly for his energy 
and competence. In the beginning of the '8o's Durnovo 
was appointed director of the Department of Police. I 
knew very little about Durnovo's activities in the depart- 



MY PREMIERSHIP 321 

ment. The reason, however, why Durnovo was forced to 
leave his post has not remained unknown to me. 

Durnovo had gained notoriety at that time for his amor- 
ous exploits. As a matter of fact, while director of the 
Department of Police he used agents of the department for 
private purposes. At that time he had a love affair with a 
lady of rather lax morals. In order to reveal this woman's 
treachery he employed agents of the department to take 
letters which this woman had written to the Spanish Am- 
bassador to Russia, out of the ambassador's desk. 

A stormy scene of jealousy was followed by a recon- 
ciliation. As far as the lady was concerned, the matter 
would have ended then and there. 

The Spanish Ambassador, however, wrote to Alexander 
III, stating the facts of the matter. The Emperor was in- 
dignant and made several insulting remarks about Durnovo. 
Durnovo was forced to resign. 

Ivan Nikolaievich Durnovo, then Minister of the In- 
terior (he was not a relative of Piotr Nikolaievich's) at 
last succeeded in persuading the Emperor to appoint Dur- 
novo member of the Senate. Durnovo served in the Senate 
a considerable length of time. He was known for his sane, 
liberal ideas. Durnovo always defended the cause of the 
Jews, whenever new attempts were made to reduce their 
legal rights. 

Durnovo served as assistant to two Ministers of the In- 
terior, Sipyagin and Svyatapolk-Mirski. His work in this 
capacity was satisfactory and the views he expressed sane 
and liberal. 

It was this man, besides Prince Urusov, that I selected 
as a candidate for the post of Minister of the Interior. 

When I mentioned Durnovo's name at the Council of 
Ministers, most of the members opposed this appointment. 
They could not offer, however, a more satisfactory candi- 
date. When I told the Emperor my plans, he seemed very 




322 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

much opposed to Durnovo, but said nothing about Urusov's 
candidacy. Trepov, too, spoke with animosity of both of 
my candidates. 

I must admit that Trepov's dislike of Durnovo made me 
decide in favour of the latter. I already understood at that 
time that Trepov wanted to have indirect control of the 
Ministry of the Interior, or rather, of the Department of 
Police. He therefore desired the Minister of the Interior 
to be either a novice or a man absolutely ignorant of the 
intricacies of the Department of Police. 

In the evening there was a conference. Shipov, Guchkov 
and Prince Tmbetzkoi declared they would not remain in 
the cabinet in case Durnovo was appointed. They insisted 
upon my taking the post. I explained to them that it was 
absolutely impossible for me to take it, as my time was lim- 
ited. I could think of no one else who knew the workings 
of the ministry so thoroughly and who was not likely to fall 
under the influence of General Trepov and the Department 
of Police. 

I requested the Emperor to appoint Durnovo Minister of 
the Interior and also name him member of the Imperial 
Council. 

The Emperor agreed to appoint Durnovo to the Imperial 
Council, but made him Manager of the Ministry instead of 
full-fledged minister. Durnovo's appointment was one of 
the greatest errors I made during my administration. 

By making Durnovo Manager, the Emperor clearly indi- 
cated that should Durnovo succeed in pleasing him, he would 
forget about Durnovo's past, even his liberalism in the 
Senate. On the other hand, should Durnovo fail to win the 
Emperor's favour, his administration would be a very 
short one. 

When Durnovo became familiar with the state of affairs 
at the court and discovered that the Emperor considered 
my administration as a bitter necessity, forced upon him by 



MY PREMIERSHIP 323 

the inexorable course of events, and would gladly replace 
me by someone whom he would find more convenient to use 
as a shield, Durnovo decided that it was far better to be a 
persona gratissima with the Emperor in Tsarskoye Selo 
than with me in St. Petersburg. To please the Emperor 
you had to please Trepov and the Grand Duke Nikolai 
Nikolaievich. Durnovo did not hesitate to curry favour 
with both these personages. 

By January first, Durnovo was appointed Minister and 
became Privy Counsellor. The promotion came to me as 
a surprise. Generally speaking, Durnovo did not judge it 
necessary to keep me informed about the nature of his 
audiences with His Majesty, although I knew that they were 
numerous and oftentimes lengthy. Towards Easter time 
his daughter was made lady-in-waiting to the Empress. 

Durnovo adored his daughter and it had long been his 
cherished dream to have her become lady-in-waiting. He 
had made many efforts before, but they proved futile. To 
create a lady-in-waiting it is necessary to secure the consent 
of both Empresses, and it seems that the old Empress stub- 
bornly refused to give her sanction. It was only through 
great persistence that His Majesty broke her obstinacy. 

Afterwards, when Durnovo was unexpectedly forced to 
leave his post of Minister of the Interior, after I resigned 
from the post of Premier, the Emperor rewarded Durnovo 
with 200,000 rubles (from the Government Treasury, of 
course) to console him for the loss of his position. 

While Durnovo was deficient from the moral viewpoint, 
he was, no doubt, a man of great energy and competence. 
If the Emperor had made it clear to Durnovo at the very 
start that while I remained President of the Imperial Coun- 
cil, he, Durnovo, who had been appointed at my instance, 
could do nothing without my knowledge and approval, all 
would have gone on admirably. Durnovo would have be- 



THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

come, in fact, the embodiment of what I desired the Minis- 
ter of the Interior to be. 

The portfolio of Commerce I entrusted to V. D. Timir- 
yazev, although I had a rather low opinion about him. It 
was not a happy choice either. He held exceedingly liberal 
views, I soon found. He had been away from Russia for 
a long time and he must have imagined that we in Russia 
had entered the era of a democratic republic. I was com- 
pelled to dismiss him as a result of a scandalous incident in 
which were involved the notorious Father Gapon and a 
journalist who secured 30,000 rubles from Timiryazev for 
the purpose of restoring Gapon's labour organization and 
then attempted to embezzle the funds. 

When he left my Cabinet, I learned that he used to re- 
ceive reporters of radical papers almost daily and tell them 
about the Government's activities, posing as an ultra-liberal. 
The further course of his career, showed, however, that 
his liberalism was little more than a mask. 

Timiryazev achieved nothing either under me or in Stoly- 
pin's premiership when he was again appointed Minister of 
Commerce and Industry. His predecessor had given up 
his post because, he refused to acquiesce in the unlawful 
doling out of petroleum fields. Timiryazev was more ac- 
commodating. The only thing he sought was to please 
and gratify the powers that be. When the Duma made an 
interpellation concerning the illegal dealings with oil-bear- 
ing fields, he delivered himself of a truly revolting speech in 
defence of his actions. On the one hand, he insinuated that 
he was but doing the Emperor's will; on the other, he ob- 
served, with admirable naivete, that the Czar has the God- 
given right to dry the tears of the unhappy and that this 
prerogative is one of the best sides of monarchism. In 
commenting upon this utterance, which aroused universal 
indignation, someone observed that in this case His Majesty 



MY PREMIERSHIP 325 

had confined himself to drying the tears of equerries and 
court masters of the hunt, exclusively. 

I also chose to part with Prince Hilkov, Minister of 
Ways of Communication. A man of good character and of 
great experience in technical railroad matters, he was not 
administrator enough to be equal to his ministerial tasks. 
As his successor I recommended director of the South-West- 
ern Railroads Nemyeshayev, who had the reputation of an 
experienced railway administrator, and who, I knew, would 
be agreeable to His Majesty. The Emperor approved my 
choice. Nemyeshayev succeeded in restoring the railroads 
to their normal state. 

I had nothing against the Minister of War Rediger and 
the Minister of the Navy Birilev, while the Minister of 
Justice Manukhin and Minister of Foreign Affairs Lams- 
dorff I highly valued. I did not particularly prize Ko- 
kovtzev and Schwanebach, Ministers of Finances and 
Agriculture, respectively, but I was willing to cooperate 
with them if they would stop intriguing. 

Before proceeding with my task of forming a Cabinet of 
Ministers, I decided to call a conference of public leaders, 
including Shipov, a well-known zemstvo worker; Guchkov, 
now leader of the Octobrist Party in the Imperial Duma; 
M. A. Stakhovich, Prince Urusov, and Prince Trubetzkoi, 
Professor of the University of Moscow, later member of 
the Imperial Council. I had previously been authorized, 
as a matter of principle, to offer some of the portfolios to 
prominent public men, should I find that their prestige 
might help allay the unrest. The conference was a failure, 
and further acquaintance with these men convinced me that 
they were not fit for the responsible ministerial posts, in 
spite of the fact that some of them were persons of excel- 
lent character and eminent abilities. Thus, for several 
weeks after my appointment, I was unable to form a 
Cabinet which would be in sympathy with the principles set 



326 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

forth in the constitutional manifesto or which would at 
least recognize its historic inevitability. As a result, for 
some time I ruled the country, a huge Empire in a state of 
profound upheaval, singlehandedly, with the vast and in- 
tricate machinery of government practically out of com- 
mission. 

Some two weeks after my appointment, General Trepov, 
Governor-General of St. Petersburg, Commander of the 
garrison of that city, and Assistant Minister of the Interior, 
formally tendered his resignation. I informed him over 
the telephone that I accepted it. The next morning I met 
him on board the government ship which was taking me to 
Peterhof for my daily report to His Majesty. He in- 
formed me that he had been appointed Court Commandant. 
The news came to me as a complete surprise, just as it did 
to everybody else. His departure looked like a hurried 
escape from the capital. In the course of my audience with 
the Emperor I observed that I was glad to hear of General 
Trepov's new appointment. With all his secret service 
experience, I said, he was likely to be successful in his task 
of protecting His Majesty's life, the chief task of a Court 
Commandant. The Emperor was apparently displeased 
with the subject of the conversation, and hastened to 
change it. 

Trepov was followed by Garin, director of Department 
of Police. The latter was immediately named Senator and 
eventually became General Trepov' s unofficial secretary. It 
was he who penned for General Trepov the learned resolu- 
tions teeming with reference to law books, which resolutions 
were subsequently given out by His Majesty as his own 
productions. The Emperor himself has never in his life 
opened the Russian code of laws, and I am certain that he 
does not know the difference between the Department of 
Causation and the other departments of the Senate. 

Trepov is a central figure in our revolution and musfbe 



MY PREMIERSHIP 327 

dealt with at considerable length. Prince Urusov speaking 
before the first Duma characterized him as "a quarter- 
master by education and a pogrom maker by conviction." 
While it is impossible to squeeze a human being with all 
its complexities into a narrow word formula, nevertheless 
Prince Urusov's phrase succeeds in bringing out one essen- 
tial feature of Trepov' s personality. He was indeed "a 
quarter-master by education," and therein lay his own and 
Russia's misfortune. In his youth he attended a military 
school (the Corps of Pages), yet whatever education he 
had he received in the barracks of the Cavalry Guards, and 
in the Officers' Club. He probably never in his life read a 
single serious book. It cannot be denied, however, that he 
was a smart, thoroughly trained, and conscientious officer. 

"Pogrom-maker by conviction," that is not altogether 
accurate. Trepov did not love the art of pogrom-making 
for its own sake. He merely did not hesitate to resort to 
pogroms whenever he considered them necessary for the 
protection of the vital interests of the State, as he saw 
them. Only his attitude toward anti-Jewish pogroms was 
rather light-hearted, but in this respect he resembled Plehve, 
Count Ignatyev, and many other high officials to whom the 
bloody game of pogrom-making was a mere political amuse- 
ment. And did not the Emperor himself call on all of us 
to rally under the banners of the Union of Russians, which 
political party openly advocates the annihilation of the 
Jews? 

I first noticed Trepov under rather odd circumstances. 
The incident is to a certain extent characteristic of him. 
When the body of the deceased Emperor Alexander III 
arrived in St. Petersburg from Yalta, it was taken to the 
Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul. The streets along 
which the funeral procession passed were lined with troops. 
According to the ceremonial, the cortege was headed by 
the Ministers and members of the Imperial Council march- 



328 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WTTTE 

ing in double file. Then came the clergymen and the funeral 
carriage. In passing a line of Cavalry Guards on Nevski 
Prospect, I was amazed to hear a Guard officer give the 
following word of command: "Head to the right" (i.e., 
in the direction of the approaching funeral carriage) ; "look 
more cheerful!" Turning to a General who happened to 
be nearby, I inquired who was that fool. "Count Trepov, 
squadron commander, a smart officer," came the reply. 

Trepov began his political career as Chief of Police of 
Moscow, under Grand Duke Sergey Alexandrovich, Gov- 
ernor-General of the same city. He owed his promotion to 
his superior's wife, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna, 
a worthy and very unhappy woman, who after the terrible 
death of her husband (he was assassinated by terrorists) 
was naturally inclined to be well disposed toward his close 
collaborator. The Grand Duchess succeeded in winning 
over to Trepov's side her sister, Empress Alexandra, which 
naturally meant also the Emperor. Trepov was also a 
protege of Baron Frederich. In the simplicity of his mind, 
the Baron sincerely believed that a plucky Cavalry Guard 
like General Trepov was just the man to impose discipline 
not alone upon the actions but also the very thoughts of the 
Russian people. Besides, General Mosolov, married to Tre- 
pov's sister, was director of the Baron's chancery, and it 
must be said that he never failed to take advantage of an 
occasion to present Trepov's actions and intentions to his 
superior in the best light. As far as independent judgment 
goes, the Baron himself was altogether below criticism. He 
found it hard to grasp plain facts, let alone a chain of 
reasoning. His assistants used to coach him like a school- 
boy each time he had to report to His Majesty. Trepov 
also had a powerful friend at the Court in the person of 
Prince Orlov, Her Majesty's intimate collaborator and 
favourite. 

During the revolutionary days General Trepov became a 



MY PREMIERSHIP 329 

house divided against itself, and exhibited a complete con- 
fusion of mind. Unassisted by either political education 
or vision, he expressed simultaneously the most opposed 
views and passed from one extreme to another. An advo- 
cate of absolute autocracy, he expressed the most radical 
opinions in discussing Bulygin's project of a consultative 
Duma. In October, 1905, he issued the famous order of 
the day instructing the troops "not to spare cartridges," 
i.e., in dealing with the revolutionists. Several days later 
he spoke in favour of a most liberal political amnesty. On 
one hand, in the Committee of Ministers he insisted on the 
most stringent measures against both the students and the 
teaching staff of the institutions of higher learning; on the 
other hand, he originated and carried the plan of granting 
to these institutions a broad and vaguely defined autonomy, 
a measure which was instrumental in precipating the revolu- 
tion. 

It must be admitted, nevertheless, that whatever this 
sorry statesman did was done in good faith and in the spirit 
of absolute loyalty to the Emperor and the man in the 
monarch. It is noteworthy that toward the end of his life 
the General fell into disfavour with His Majesty, and the 
latter was going to get rid of Trepov when he died a 
natural death. I am certain that no one will suspect me of 
being partial to General Trepov. He was practically my 
archenemy, and it was he who, more than any one else, 
made my position as Prime Minister unbearable. I feel, 
therefore, at liberty to assert, that, when all is said, Trepov 
was a man of good faith and political decency. 

While Trepov held the ostensibly modest and non- 
political office of Court Commandant, in reality he was a 
cross between an irresponsible dictator and an Asiatic 
eunuch day and night attached to the person of his Master. 
A man of a resolute and martial air, he wielded an over- 
whelming influence over the weak-willed Emperor. It was in 



330 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Trepov's hands that lay His Majesty's safety, inasmuch 
as he was in charge of both the open and secret defence of 
the Monarch's person. He was at liberty to advise His 
Majesty at all times, and he acted as a middleman between 
the Czar and the authors of various confidential memoirs 
and secret reports, which were addressed to the Emperor. 
He had the power to smother a document or bring it em- 
phatically to the Monarch's attention. Naturally enough, 
the numerous people who in their efforts to rise rely on 
other means than sheer merit and who make their careers 
in society boudoirs, those people began to seek by hook 
or crook to gain access to Trepov's reception room in the 
palaces of Tsarskoye-Selo and Peterhof. It was also nat- 
ural for the Court clique to choose Trepov as the instrument 
of reaction, which followed upon the confusion and panic 
of the revolution. 

Trepov's influence over His Majesty was by far greater 
than mine. In fact, he was the irresponsible head of the 
Government, while I wielded little power and bore all the 
responsibility. This circumstance greatly hindered my 
activities and was the chief reason why I gave up my post 
several days before the opening of the Imperial Duma. 
It is noteworthy that my successor Goremykin was on excel- 
lent terms with Trepov, which was, no doubt, one of the 
causes why he was appointed, for Goremykin had nothing 
except his huge whiskers to distinguish him from thousands 
of bureaucratic mediocrities. But Trepov could unmake a 
Prime Minister, just as he could make one, and as a matter 
of fact, Goremykin was dismissed at Trepov's suggestion. 
"It's Stolypin's luck," Goremykin told me on one occasion, 
in 1908, "that Trepov died a few weeks after his appoint- 
ment." 

It appears that on being appointed Court Commandant 
Trepov did not altogether sever his relations with the 
Department of Police. Rachkovski, head of the Secret 



MY PREMIERSHIP 331 

Service under Trepov and formerly the leading spirit of 
the Department, was an assiduous habitue in the house of 
the Court Commandant. He had been removed by Dur- 
novo from his high office and attached to the Minister of 
the Interior in the capacity of official charged with special 
functions. In January, or perhaps in February, 1906, 
Lopukhin, Director of the Police Department under Plehve, 
had a formal conference with me, in the course of which he 
imparted to me a piece of startling information. He knew 
it as a certainty, he declared, that there was at the Police 
Department a special section headed by Captain Komis- 
sarov, which was engaged in turning out proclamations 
inciting to anti-Jewish pogroms, and in disseminating them 
broadcast in the country. Only the other day, he said, 
large bales of this literature had been sent to Kursk, Wilna, 
and Moscow. He added that the section had originated 
under Trepov and had been directed by Rachkovski, who 
at the time was still connected with it. 

Knowing Lopukhin's hostility toward both Trepov and 
Rachkovski, I assumed a skeptical attitude toward his tale, 
and asked him to submit proofs in support of his words. 
Several days later Lopukhin brought me samples of the 
proclamations he had spoken about. He warned me that, 
unless Komissarov were taken by surprise, he would be able 
easily to cover up his traces. The following day I sum- 
moned one of my secretaries and ordered him immediately 
to drive to the Police Department in my own carriage and 
from there to the place where Captain Komissarov was most 
likely to be found and bring me the man without the least 
delay and without allowing him the time necessary to 
change his clothes in case he was not in proper uniform. 

A half hour later I beheld Captain Komissarov for the 
first time in my life. He wore citizen's clothes. I seated 
him and without mincing words asked him how he was 
getting on with the very important affair with which he had 



332 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

been entrusted and in which I took, I said, great interest. 
I went on mentioning such details that he was at once taken 
aback and made no effort to conceal his activities from me. 
He admitted that the proclamations were being dissemi- 
nated, but he mentioned smaller figures than those given by 
Lopukhin. The printing, he confessed, was being done on 
presses seized during the raids on several revolutionary 
underground printing establishments and now housed in the 
basement of the Police Department building. When asked 
who was the organizer and head of the section, he hastened 
to assure me that he was acting on his own initiative, with- 
out the knowledge of either his former or his present 
superiors, merely because he believed the work to be highly 
useful. To press the point was to no purpose. "Give me 
your word," I said to him, "that immediately upon your 
return to the Police Department you will destroy the entire 
supply of pogrom literature and either demolish or throw 
into the Fontanka River all your printing presses ; also that 
you will never engage in such activities. This sort of thing 
cannot go on. I shall not tolerate it. If I find out to-mor- 
row morning that you have failed to comply with my order, 
I shall deal with you according to the letter of the law." 
Komissarov gave me his word of honour that he would 
literally carry out my instructions. 

The next day I took up the matter with the Minister of 
the Interior. Durnovo, who apparently knew nothing of 
the activities of Komissarov's section, instituted an investi- 
gation. I have in my records Durnovo's report about its 
findings. While not denying the facts, the report naturally 
minimized them. The story then penetrated into the press 
and formed the subject of a speecH delivered by Prince 
Urusov in the First Duma. In the course of my next inter- 
view with the Emperor I reported to him the whole matter. 
His Majesty was silent and appeared to be familiar with 
all the details of the matter. In conclusion, I asked him to 



MY PREMIERSHIP 333 

refrain from punishing Komissarov. He remarked that he 
did not intend to punish the Captain anyway, in considera- 
tion of his services in obtaining secret military documents 
at the time of our war with Japan. 

Speaking of Trepov and his influence upon the Czar, I 
cannot refrain from relating here one characteristic inci- 
dent. On one occasion, towards the end of 1905, I met 
General Trepov in the Emperor's reception chamber. Gen- 
eral Trepov told me that it would be desirable to have the 
Imperial Bank grant a loan to Skalon, an officer of the 
body-guards and son-in-law of Homiakov, now President 
of the Imperial Duma. I told him that the proper place to 
go to would be the Imperial Bank. 

General Trepov informed me that the Imperial Bank 
refused to grant this loan, inasmuch as it did not belong to 
the types of loans provided for by the statutes of the Bank. 

"If such is the case," I replied, "then Skalon will not 
receive the loan. Formerly loans were occasionally granted 
by orders of His Majesty, although not provided for by 
the statutes of the Bank. This is impossible now, however: 
first of all, because it would not harmonize with the spirit 
of the Manifesto of Oct. iyth, and secondly, because the 
country is going through a financial crisis. I know nothing 
about the substance of the case, but judging from the exter- 
nals of the matter and my experiences with similar cases, 
I feel almost certain that the Bank will be the loser in this* 
case. At all events, it will be a long-term loan." 

Some time later Shipov, the Minister of Finances, came 
to inquire about my health. I had been in ill health since 
my return from America. He stated that he considered 
it his duty to share with me a confidential piece of informa- 
tion. 

After Shipov had presented his last report, he told me, 
the Emperor instructed him to have the Imperial Bank 
grant a loan of two million rubles to Skalon. His Majesty 



334 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

added : "I request you to tell nothing about this matter to 
the President of the Council." I assured Shipov that in 
my official capacity I would act as if entirely ignorant of 
the matter, but that I was interested to know what he had 
done. 

Upon his return to the Department, Shipov told me, he 
immediately wrote to the Emperor, telling him that he 
would obey His Majesty's orders, but that he judged it 
necessary to draw His Majesty's attention to those por- 
tions of the Bank's statutes, from which it appears clearly 
that the Bank has no right to grant this loan and that sub- 
stantially the loan was unsound. His Majesty returned the 
report with a marginal remark : "Comply with my orders !" 
The Bank therefore granted this loan. 

But Shipov paid dearly for the report he made to the 
Emperor. When I left the post of Premier, Shipov re- 
ceived no appointment in spite of my intercession. As for 
the loan, it is still unpaid. 

To illustrate the workings of Trepov's mind and to 
exemplify the political reaction which set in in the wake of 
the country's pacification, I wish to relate also the story of 
Kutler's peasant bill. 

I have not the slightest doubt but that the future phases 
of the Russian revolution will unfold in close connection 
with the land situation, especially since Stolypin has in- 
augurated the policy based on the axiom that Russia exists 
for a handful of landowners. During the first weeks which 
followed the publication of the constitutional manifesto, the 
peasantry seemed to have entirely gotten out of hand. It 
must be borne in mind that our peasants have always had 
but the vaguest notion of legality, normal justice and the 
institution of property as the basis of social order in a 
modern State. It was then that the landowners lost their 
heads. General Trepov was one of the first to fall into a 
complete confusion. Once, I remember, I had a remark- 



MY PREMIERSHIP 335 

able talk with him at theTsarskoye Selo Palace where I had 
come to report to His Majesty. The conversation turned 
to the peasant uprisings and Trepov declared that the only 
way to put an end to this disaster was to carry out an imme- 
diate and extensive expropriation of privately owned land 
for the benefit of the peasants. I expressed my doubts as 
to the advisability of adopting such a vastly important 
measure hastily and ill-advisedly, and that on the very eve 
of the opening of the Imperial Duma. He retorted that 
the landowners would welcome the measure : "I am a 
landed proprietor myself," he said, "and I would be very 
glad indeed to give away half of my land, provided I could 
be assured that on this condition I could safely keep the 
other half." 

During the audience His Majesty handed me a document 
saying: "This is Professor Migulin's memoir. Take it 
up in the Council of Ministers." This memoir advocated 
the compulsory expropriation of land for the benefit of the 
peasantry, as a measure which should be immediately 
adopted and put into effect by Imperial decree. I under- 
stood at once who had laid the project before the Emperor. 
Professor Migulin, author of a great many clever and 
pretentious compilations entirely devoid of true scholar- 
ship, enjoyed some prestige among the middle class intel- 
lectuals and provincial lionesses. He had, therefore, no 
difficulty in gaining access to General Trepov. After the au- 
dience, Trepov met me again and tried to persuade me that 
the measure advocated in the memorandum which had been 
handed to me should be adopted with all possible haste, 
before the peasants had taken away all the land from the 
gentry. 

Migulin's project was examined by the Council of Min- 
isters, and all its members, including Kutler, Minister of 
Agriculture, assumed a negative attitude toward the pro- 
posed measure. The unanimous opinion was that this meas- 



336 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

ure, affecting as it did the vital nerve of the Russian body 
politic, needed a most thoroughgoing investigation and 
that, besides, it lay properly within the authority of the 
Imperial Duma and Imperial Council. 

While rejecting Migulin's ill-advised suggestion, the 
Council of Ministers adopted two measures tending to 
better the peasants' condition, namely, the abolition of the 
redemption payments, i.e., payments for the land allotted 
to the peasants at their emancipation, and the extension of 
the land operations of the Peasant Bank. These two meas- 
ures were immediately enacted by Imperial decree. The 
Council also decided to form a special commission under 
Kutler's presidency for the purpose of drafting bills relating 
to the peasant class, to be laid before the Imperial Duma. 
It is noteworthy that at one time Adjutant-General Duba- 
sov, the man who suppressed the Moscow insurrection, held 
a view not unlike Trepov's regarding the method of dealing 
with the agrarian disorders. In the course of a conversa- 
tion he had with me in December, 1905, he expressed him- 
self to the effect that there was but one way to pacify the 
countryside, namely, to legalize the peasants' land seizures. 

In the meantime, the revolutionary wave began to ebb, 
and in proportion as the general pacification of the country 
made progress, the ruling element began to repudiate more 
and more resolutely the views and opinions which were 
engendered by the panic of the revolution. Gradually the 
project of compulsory expropriation of landed estates ceased 
to be a subject of discussion and in the end it came to be 
considered a revolutionary, a criminal, and, indeed, a mon- 
strous measure. Several weeks after the Council of Min- 
isters had turned down Professor Migulin's project es- 
poused by Trepov and after a commission had been formed 
for the preliminary work on peasant legislation, Kutler told 
me that the more he studied the problems of peasant land- 
ownership, the clearer he saw the inevitability of some form 



MY PREMIERSHIP 337 

of compulsory expropriation of land for the benefit of the 
peasantry, and with compensation for the expropriated 
landowners. 

Shortly afterwards, I found on my desk a package con- 
taining a number of mimeographed copies of a preliminary 
project for the amelioration of peasant landownership, 
drafted by Kutler's Commission. As His Majesty had 
asked me to rush all the measures relating to the peasant 
class, I immediately ordered copies of the project sent to 
the members of the Council of Ministers and also to some 
of the members of the Imperial Council. It was not before 
late in the evening that I found a free moment to look into 
Kutler's project. I found that it advocated compensated 
compulsory expropriation of a portion of privately owned 
land for the benefit of the peasants with insufficient hold- 
ings. The project providing for such a measure appeared 
to me untimely, to say the least. I had already noticed the 
reactionary change in the attitude of the high spheres 
toward the principle of compulsory expropriation. Conse- 
quently I had those of the copies of the project which had 
already gone out returned, and the following morning I 
told Kutler that I considered the moment inopportune for 
the discussion of the project of his Commission. The Min- 
ister did not insist, but asked me to take up the principles 
underlying the project at a private conference of the Min- 
isters. I inquired whether he had taken the necessary 
measures to keep the project secret. I was afraid, I ex- 
plained, that it might be used as a pretext for all manner 
of insinuations and intrigues. He had taken, he said, no 
such measures, for the idea had not even occurred to him. 

The private session of the Council took place soon after-* 
wards. The ministers, without exception, assumed a nega- 
tive attitude toward the basic principle of Kutler's project. 
They advanced as chief argument the inviolability and 
sacrosanctitude of the institution of private property. I 






338 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

agreed with my colleagues, but 1 drew their attention to 
the fact that the historical act of the peasants' emancipation 
was in itself based on the principle of compulsory expropria- 
tion. I opposed the measure for the reason, I stated, that 
in my opinion it would complete the process of undermining 
Russia's financial and economic resources, which was begun 
by the war and continued by the unrest. Kutler admitted 
that the measure he proposed might have a weakening 
effect on Russia's economic status, but that it was the only 
means of permanently pacifying the peasant masses. Upon 
the whole, he showed no persistence in defending his proj- 
ect. The Council of Ministers asked Kutler to alter the 
project, which he agreed to do. The Council also named 
several additional members for his commission, all of them 
staunch opponents of the principle of compulsory expropria- 
tion. After the session, Kutler thanked me for the oppor- 
tunity I had given him for an exchange of opinions with 
his colleagues. 

Several days later I received from His Majesty a note 
demanding a copy of Kutler's agrarian project. In reply 
I wrote to His Majesty that there was no such project in 
existence, that there was but a rough outline of certain legal 
measures (I enclosed it) which had been discussed at a 
private meeting of the Ministers and unanimously turned 
down just like Professor Migulin's project which had been 
laid before us some time ago by His Majesty himself, also 
that Kutler agreed with the judgment of the Council of 
Ministers, and that at present the commission presided over 
by this Minister, with its membership altered, was busy 
redrafting the project. Shortly afterwards I happened to 
be reporting to His Majesty. The conversation turned 
to Kutler's project and the Emperor remarked that every- 
one was aroused against Kutler and that it would be desir- 
able to replace him. I asked His Majesty, in case of 



MY PREMIERSHIP 339 

Kutler's dismissal, to appoint him member of the Imperial 
Council, to which the Emperor apparently assented. 

No sooner, however, did I return home than I received 
from His Majesty an autographic note informing me that 
he considered it inappropriate to name Kutler member of 
the Imperial Council. Several days later I had another 
occasion to discuss the Minister's dismissal with His 
Majesty, and I secured his promise to appoint Kutler sen- 
ator. But the Czar again changed his mind and refused to 
keep his promise. More correspondence followed, and 
finally, at His Majesty's suggestion, I summoned Kutler 
and told him that owing to the misunderstandings created 
by his project it would be best for him to send in his resig- 
nation, which he did (in February, 1906). At my instance, 
His Majesty granted the former Minister a pension of 
7,000 rubles per annum. Thus, Kutler fell a victim to the 
reactionary zeal of Trepov and his like, who in their eager- 
ness to retract their radicalism born of cowardice, needed a 
scapegoat upon which to lay their sins. 

When it came to finding someone to take the place of 
the dismissed Minister of Agriculture, His Majesty pointed 
to Krivoshein, Kutler's assistant, as a desirable successor. 
I knew the man as Trepov's favourite and as an unscrupu- 
lous, self-seeking office-hunter. "Your Majesty," I said to 
the Emperor, "y u are not personally acquainted with 
Krivoshein and you wish to appoint him at the recommenda- 
tion of irresponsible advisors. As for me, I cannot admit 
to the Cabinet over which I preside men who are making 
their careers by crooked means. I should welcome a states- 
man of the most conservative views, provided his opinions 
are a matter of sincere conviction and not a means for self- 
aggrandizement." His Majesty yielded and asked me to 
let Krivoshein take charge of the Ministry temporarily, 
pending the appointment of a permanent Minister. 

My own candidate for the Minister of Agriculture was 



340 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Fiodor Samarin, a staunch Slavophile and a public worker 
of an immaculate reputation. He refused, however, to 
accept my offer, saying frankly that, on the one hand he 
could not enter my Cabinet for the reason that he was com- 
pletely opposed to the act of October iyth, and that on the 
other hand, he was neither strong nor experienced enough 
to take such a responsible post. I named a number of other 
candidates, among them Yermolov, Minister of Agriculture 
under Alexander III, Prince Kochubei and Prince Urusov. 
Some of the men were rejected by His Majesty, others de- 
clined the portfolio themselves. 

In the meantime intriguing against me and my policies 
was going on at full speed at the Court. All manner of 
denunciations and memoirs inveighing openly against my 
Cabinet were daily reaching His Majesty through Trepov, 
and the weight of these writings at the Court was constantly 
on the increase. In January, 1906, there was circulated 
among the large landowners a petition which accused some 
of the members of my Cabinet of revolutionary designs and 
demanded its dismissal. The petition was fairly long and 
contained, among others, the following passage : 

It stands to reason that the men who have received the reins of 
power from the hand of your Majesty lack neither knowledge nor 
experience. Naturally enough, there are heard voices asserting that 
the Utopian legal measures of Count Witte's Cabinet are being 
elaborated with the hidden intention of transferring to the villages 
the revolution which had failed in the cities among the labouring 
classes. 

The document concludes thus: 

We deem it our sacred duty as loyal subjects of your Majesty 
to affirm that the present Government as represented by its head, 
Count Witte, does not enjoy the confidence of the country and that 
all Russia expects you to replace this all-powerful functionary by a 
man of firmer statesmanlike principles and more experience in the 
choice of reliable collaborators worthy of the people's confidence. 



MY PREMIERSHIP 341 

On the loth of February I received from His Majesty a 
note informing me that he intended to appoint Krivoshein 
Minister of Agriculture and Rukhlov, Minister of Com- 
merce. I was enraged and decided to tender my resignation, 
but before doing so I called my colleagues into session to 
announce to them my decision. They strenuously opposed 
my desire to resign and argued me into addressing the 
following letter to the Czar: 

All the blame for the Government's actions and all the animosities 
aroused by them fall first of all upon me. This is a natural conse- 
quence of the law about the Council of Ministers, although that law 
is not strictly observed and I oftentimes learn from the papers about 
important measures taken in most cases by the provincial authorities. 
All this places me in a very difficult position, which for the time 
being I am enduring in spite of my fatigue and poor health, for I 
am sustained by the sense of duty I owe to your Imperial Majesty 
and inspired by a feeling of genuine patriotism. 

Even now I am prevented from properly unifying the actions of 
the Government. Yet the Duma and the reformed Imperial Council 
will open shortly and I shall be forced to give account for actions 
in which I did not participate, for measures which I am unable to 
carry out, and for projects of which I do not approve. 

Under the existing conditions a Government whose members lack 
solidarity in their mutual relationships, let alone homogeneity of con- 
victions and views, is an impossibility. I do not think cooperation is 
at all possible between myself and either Krivoshein or Rukhlov. I 
had the honour of conferring with your Majesty regarding Krivo- 
shein 's case and your Majesty was pleased twice to assure me that he 
would be in charge of the Ministry but for a few days. On receiving 
your note to-day about your intentions with regard to Krivoshein and 
Rukhlov, I judged it advisable to verify my views on those two can- 
didates through an exchange of opinions with the members of the 
Council. I called to-day a private conference of the Ministers, and 
we have come to a unanimous conclusion that neither Krivoshein nor 
Rukhlov is qualified for the posts in question and that their appoint- 
ment would obstruct the activity of the Council and add to the diffi- 
culties of my position. Therefore, the Ministers have empowered 
me to report the matter to your Majesty and beg you to keep intact 
the homogeneity of the personnel of the Government and allow it to 



342 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

complete its difficult task of governing the country until the Imperial 
Duma is convened. 

The Emperor yielded again, and at my recommendation 
A. P. Nikolsky, one of my collaborators in the Ministry of 
Finances, was appointed Director of the Ministry of Agri- 
culture. I selected him because I knew that he was on good 
terms with Krivoshein and that His Majesty would, there- 
fore, raise no objections. 

In another connection I have spoken of the role played 
by Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaievich in the critical days 
which preceded the publication of the constitutional mani- 
festo. In his capacity of commander of the armies of the 
St. Petersburg District he complied with my request to keep 
the troops in readiness, should I find it necessary to proclaim 
military law in St. Petersburg and its vicinity. Several 
weeks after the interview in the course of which that subject 
was discussed, General Hasenkampf, shortly before ap- 
pointed assistant to the Grand Duke, called on me and 
asked me, in the Grand Duke's name, in case of necessity 
to proclaim extraordinary instead of military law. "You 
see," he explained, "if extraordinary law is proclaimed the 
capital punishment cases will be within the jurisdiction of 
Durnovo (Minister of the Interior), while in case of mili- 
tary law the executions will depend on the Grand Duke, 
and he is likely to become a target of the terrorists." 

No sooner did the Grand Duke perceive that the pacifica- 
tion was not likely to come at once than his relative judi- 
ciousness and restraint vanished. Before long I learned by 
chance that General Rauch, his nearest satellite, was con- 
ferring with Dr. Dubrovin, the notorious Black Hundred 
leader, who was then at the beginning of his career. Later 
the Grand Duke's relations with the Union of the Russian 
People (a Black Hundred organization, or more precisely, 
a band of mercenary hooligans) assumed a more direct 



MY PREMIERSHIP 343 

character. At one time the St. Petersburg branch of the 
Union intended to elect the Grand Duke honorary presi- 
dent, but in the end the step was found to be a too risky 
one. It was only because Dubrovin relied upon the Grand 
Duke's, and also, I believe, Durnovo's protection, that he 
dared on one occasion to gather a gang of hooligans in the 
building of one of the riding-schools in St. Petersburg and 
to make incendiary speeches of such a nature that the crowd 
emerged from the building shouting: "Down with the 
cursed constitution and death to Count Witte!" 

Among the most important problems with which my 
Cabinet had to cope was the modification of the electoral 
laws promulgated simultaneously with the decree of August 
6, 1905, which created the purely advisory so-called Bulygin 
Duma. In pursuance of the manifesto of October lyth, it 
was necessary to change the electoral law, in the sense of 
liberalizing it, without, however, interfering with the elec- 
tions for the Imperial Duma, which had already begun. 
One system of electoral laws was devised by a Moscow 
group of public leaders, headed by D. I. Shipov, Guchkov 
and Prince Trubetzkoi. In the course of the conference 
called to discuss the participation of these public men in my 
Cabinet, which participation, as I said, did not take place, 
they had taken upon themselves, or, rather, they suc- 
ceeded by dint of sheer beggary, as it were, in securing the 
work of elaborating a franchise law. Another electoral 
law, the Government's, was drafted under my guidance and 
with my direct assistance, by Kryzhanowski, a functionary 
attached to the Ministry of the Interior, who is also respon- 
sible for the electoral law of the Bulygin Duma. 

Kryzhanovsky's law did not attempt to alter the basic 
principles of the Bulygin franchise regulations, but merely 
extended them so as to include new categories of electors, 
while the law drafted by the public leaders aimed at ap- 



B 44 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

preaching the realization of universal suffrage, the ideal of 
the Constitutional Democrats. 

The two electoral law drafts were then examined at a 
special session of the Committee of Ministers under my 
presidency. The session was attended, in accordance with 
the law, by the chairmen of the departments of the Imperial 
Council (Count Solski, Frisch, and Golubyov), by some of 
the members of the Imperial Council, such as A. A. Saburov 
and Tagantzev, and also by the public leaders who took 
part in the formulation of the electoral law. 

The public leaders except Count Bobrinski staunchly de- 
fended their project, but I succeeded in winning over a 
considerable majority of the members of the conference to 
the governmental version of the electoral law. 

The two versions were then discussed at a special confer- 
ence presided over by His Majesty and attended, besides the 
Ministers and some of the members of the Imperial Coun- 
cil, by several Grand Dukes and public leaders, including 
Count Bobrinski and Baron Korff. These two men, I felt 
certain, would support the Government's version, but I was 
mistaken. The Count afterwards told me that in the inter- 
val between the two conferences he had come to the conclu- 
sion, as a result of a trip in the country, that nothing short 
of an exceedingly democratic electoral law would satisfy 
the people. After the public leaders had spoken, His 
Majesty dismissed them and declared an intermission. The 
session was resumed, but we came to no decision. His 
Majesty was apparently in the throes of hesitation. The 
following day, at some Court function, I had an occasion 
to speak to the Empress. I told her that His Majesty 
would commit a mistake if he passed the democratic elec- 
toral law. This was the only time that I resorted to her 
Majesty's influence in connection with State matters. An- 
other conference followed and again the majority favoured 
the Government's, i.e., my project. Finally, the Emperor 



MY PREMIERSHIP 345 

overcame his irresoluteness, and this version was adopted. 

One of the most important bodies of statutes formulated 
during my administration was the group comprising the 
empire's fundamental laws, whose promulgation was de- 
ferred, however, until a few days after my withdrawal and 
the appointment of Goremykin to the premiership. The 
significance of these enactments rests in the vital protection 
they afforded the new governmental regime during the 
crucial period succeeding its creation on October lyth, and 
in the fact that they still constitute the basic law of the 
land, though in a form sadly distorted by Stolypin's unprin- 
cipled measures of June 3rd. 

Although a committee of delegates to the famous council 
of zemstvo and town workers had already worked out, 
toward the end of 1904 or the beginning of 1905, a code 
of 'fundamental laws for the Russian Empire, which was 
extremely democratic, including, as it did, provisions for 
universal suffrage, single voting, secret ballot and direct 
representation, so that the power of the Emperor would be 
as limited as that of the President of the Swiss Republic, 
nevertheless, during the first two months of my premiership 
neither the Council of Members nor I myself, in my official 
capacity, had as yet considered the elaboration of the basic 
edicts necessitated by the manifesto of October lyth, with 
its mandate for the establishment of an Imperial Duma and 
the thoroughgoing revision of the imperial budget system; 
and, of course, we were still further away from a serious 
examination of the advisability of publishing these decrees 
before the Duma convened, in order that the new repre- 
sentative body might proceed at once to an intelligent dis- 
cussion of legislative measures. 

Early in 1906 Count Solski told me in a private con- 
versation that under His Majesty's orders a fundamental 
code was then being worked out by the Imperial Secretary, 
Ikskul, a splendid man of wide administrative experience 



346 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

but of very few original ideas, and his assistant, Khari- 
tonov. Adding that upon completion this draft was to be 
submitted for discussion to an unofficial conference, under 
his direct leadership, the Count urgently invited me to take 
part in the deliberations. Notwithstanding our cordial 
relations, I refused categorically, and, upon his continued 
pressure to accept, I explained that on account of my con- 
spicuous position I was resolutely determined to abstain 
from participating in such committees, since by reason of 
my mere presence posterity would charge me with the 
responsibility for the serious defects with which, judging 
by past experience, systems evolved in this manner were 
bound to suffer, especially in such troubled times. Further- 
more, I expressed it as my firm conviction that the formula- 
tion of fundamental laws, as well as ordinary statutes, 
should be left to the Council of Ministers, whose members, 
and I as Premier, would have to bear the onus. Solski 
was sorely displeased with my answer. Shortly afterwards 
he informed me that he had been commissioned by the 
Emperor to complete the draft of the proposed laws, which 
would then be sent to the Council of Ministers. 

Toward the end of February I received from Solski the 
//7L / P r J ecte d code in the form in which it was presented to His 
Majesty. The manner in which this plan reached me will 
be an illuminating commentary on the psychologically un- 
sound condition of Russian society in general and of its 
representatives in particular at this juncture. Impelled by 
a motive unrevealed until afterwards, the prime mover in 
this enterprise of promulgating a system of fundamental 
law was General Trepov, at the time occupying a position 
"much akin to that of a dictator, as I have described at 
some length elsewhere. His Majesty having approved of 
the idea, the work was assigned to the Imperial Secretary 
and his assistant. The hodge-podge of constitutional 
statutes which they concocted was turned over to a paragon 



MY PREMIERSHIP 347 

of the aristocratic bureaucracy of St. Petersburg, a well- 
meaning liberal of exemplary gifts and education with a 
lifelong experience in the Imperial Council, in short, a per- 
fect specimen of exalted officialdom. And so, finally, bear- 
ing this awe-inspiring stamp of approval, there comes to 
me, the head of the Government at this revolutionary crisis, 
a code of basic laws such as would, for the second time 
after October lyth, have reduced the Emperor's power of 
his own free will or, rather, unwittingly, and to such a 
marked extent that he would have become, not only incom- 
parably less potent than the Mikado, but less than the 
President of the French Republic and in some respects even 
less than the President of the Swiss Republic. Shackled by 
such fundamental laws, the Empire and its government 
would have been at the mercy of the deranged people who 
made up such a large part of the first Imperial Duma. Of 
course, in the end, who would have been blamed for the 
resulting confusion worse confounded? Who, indeed, but 
Witte? 

On this occasion I wrote to His Majesty as follows: 

The proposed code, in my opinion, suffers both from sins of com- 
mission and omission. It contains, on the one hand, a number of 
extremely dangerous provisions; and, on the other hand, it lacks 
provisions absolutely necessary in the new order of things. I would 
refer first of all to the need of distinguishing between laws and 
decrees. At present almost every measure may be regarded as a 
law, since, according to a strict interpretation of its functions, prac- 
tically everything has to pass through the Imperial Council. Although 
such a mode of procedure may have been convenient for the Monarch 
while the Council was merely an advisory body, under the new condi- 
tions it would involve us in the most embarrassing difficulties. In 
spite of the fact that I have more than once adverted to this matter 
in discussing the regulations concerning the Imperial Council and 
the Imperial Duma, I find not a single word on the subject in the 
plan submitted to me by Count Solski. I would also call attention 
to defects in the basic laws concerning the succession and regency, 
which laws Your Majesty at one time desired to modify, according 



348 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

to information given me by K. P. Pobiedonostzev and N. B. Murav- 



1OV. 



(The Emperor expressed this intention shortly after his 
serious illness with typhoid fever at Yalta, when, due to 
the pregnant condition of the Empress, a delicate question 
arose regarding the succession to the throne). 

During all this time I received not the least statement 
from His Majesty in reference to the fundamental laws. 
Apparently, throughout this affair, there was going on be- 
hind the scenes a game of which I was not fully cognizant 
until subsequently. As I have already remarked, the stage 
manager of the intrigue was Trepov, whose intention it 
was to omit me and the Council of Ministers from the cast 
altogether, or, rather, to have me play the role of tete-de- 
titrc, i.e., scapegoat. Since I was too wary to fall into this 
trap, the project was transmitted to me through Solski 
without any instructions whatever. The Emperor certainly 
did not read the plan until I laid it before him in a revised 
form. 

When the subject came up in the Council of Ministers, 
which devoted only a few hurried sessions to it despite its 
paramount importance, the first question discussed was 
whether or not the fundamental laws should be made public 
before the meeting of the Duma. It was clear to me that 
essentially the answer to this question would decide whether 
the regime ushered in on October I7th was to survive or 
be drowned in a deluge of blood. Evidently, if the laws 
were not promulgated before its convention, the Duma 
would resolve itself into a constituent assembly, thus pro- 
voking the use of military force with the consequent destruc- 
tion of the new regime. Would this be for the best? Yes, 
provided a second Peter the Great were to appear. Having 
no faith at all, however, in such a miracle, I took a firm 
stand for the promulgation of the laws before the opening 



MY PREMIERSHIP 349 

of the Duma. All the members of the Council took the 
same view with the solitary exception of A. D. Obolensky, 
who lost his bearings completely at this time and rushed 
distractedly from extreme liberalism to extreme conserva- 
tism. It was his opinion that the Duma should devise the 
fundamental laws. However, I, as well as all the rest of 
the members, had already ceased to take him seriously. My 
ideas were not fully revealed to the Council, and its mem- 
bers did not see as far ahead as I. The general view of the 
Council on this point is indicated by the following entry in 
the Council's journal, wherein the revised draft of the pro- 
posed laws was recorded: 

It is most unwise to postpone the promulgation of the basic stat- 
utes, in order to formulate them with the Duma's assistance, since 
this would mean that instead of beginning the constructive work of 
organization immediately, the newly elected representatives of the 
people would be drawn into dangerous and futile controversies about 
the extent of their rights and the nature of their relation to the 
Supreme Power. 

On beginning the examination of the project presented to 
us by Count Solski, I inquired of Count Lamsdorff, Min- 
ister of Foreign Affairs, and of Birilev and Rediger, Minis- 
ters of the Navy and War, respectively, whether they had 
any objections to those sections which related to the depart- 
ments under their control. I was greatly astonished when 
they answered that they had no objections of any conse- 
quence to make. Thereupon I informed them that on my 
part I was unalterably opposed to the clauses relating to 
the conduct of foreign affairs and the control of the em- 
pire's military forces. I explained that in my estimation 
the direction of our foreign policy and the leadership of 
the army and navy belonged to the head of the Government, 
i.e., the Emperor, and that the Duma should deliberate 
upon these matters only from a financial standpoint, i.e., in 
connection with the budget. Influenced by my statements, 

I 



350 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

the three ministers made suggestions which were discussed 
by the Council and led to changes and additions to the 
fundamental laws, so that His Majesty was confirmed as 
the dictator of foreign policies and the supreme commander 
of the army and navy. I believed, as I still do, that the 
Duma's meddling with these matters under existing condi- 
tions, which are not likely to change for a long time to 
come, would have resulted inevitably in undermining Rus- 
sia's position among the great powers. Doubtless there will 
not be lacking opponents of this view, who will cite espe- 
cially the gross blunder committed in bringing on the war 
with Japan. To this my reply will be that man is always 
prone to mistakes and insensate actions; but that one need 
merely glance at the changes in the map of Russia from the 
time of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great to the days 
of Nicholas II in order to realize that almost no other 
nation has, during so short a period, made such gigantic 
advances in the field of exterior intercourse and expansion. 
It is true, however, that during the reign of Nicholas II 
serious errors have been made in this respect. God forbid 
a repetition of them ! 

After this, turning to the problem which I had called to 
His Majesty's attention, I pointed out to the Council the 
necessity of differentiating between decrees and laws. In 
considering this question the Council concluded that, since 
legislative experience had demonstrated the impossibility of 
distinguishing between decrees and laws by their contents, 
it was necessary to detail more minutely in the fundamental 
laws those matters in which the supreme power exercised 
unlimited sovereignty. Accordingly the Council undertook 
to formulate a comprehensive definition of the Emperor's 
power, setting forth in particular his executive authority 
and his right to issue decrees for the establishment of cer- 
tain administrative agencies of the government, for the 
maintenance of law and order and for the advancement of 



MY PREMIERSHIP 351 

the general welfare of his people. In addition the Council 
deemed it advisable to record at greater length His 
Majesty's control over governmental employes and offi- 
cials, particularly his prerogative of removing or dismissing 
any of them from office. About the last point, however, a 
controversy arose in connection with the Ministry of Jus- 
tice. The majority, including myself, held that the Em- 
peror's power of dismissal applied to the Department of 
Justice also, while the minority argued for an irremovable 
judiciary holding office under the law of Alexander II. 

The Council of Ministers then proceeded to define the 
Emperor's exclusive privilege of minting coins, his power 
to proclaim martial law or a state of siege, to grant amnesty, 
to exempt from taxation, to define the areas of freedom of 
dwelling, and to condemn private property for public use. 
Furthermore, the Council considered it necessary to state 
that the Emperor possesses absolutely unlimited control 
over his estate and personal property, including securities, 
and over the management of the Department of the Im- 
perial Court. In order to avoid misunderstanding, con- 
firmation was also given to the fact that high government 
officials may not be subjected to criminal prosecution or 
sentenced by the properly instituted authorities without the 
Emperor's previous consent; likewise that members of the 
privileged classes may not be deprived of their rights with- 
out such consent. 

Because the fundamental laws would, unlike ordinary 
statutes, be susceptible of revision only at the Emperor's 
command, it was deemed advantageous to include the most 
important provisions of the recent enactments regarding the 
imperial budget. For similar reasons a clause was incor- 
porated to the effect that whenever the quota of recruits to 
be called out for military training during a given year was 
not fixed before May ist, the same number as in the preced- 
ing year should be summoned. The particular object of 



352 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

this rule was to nullify possible obstructive tactics on the 
part of the legislative assembly in a matter of such vital 
moment. 

Although the sections concerning the Council of Minis- 
ters were altered somewhat in order to effect cooperation 
between them and the representative body, the ministers 
remained responsible solely to the Emperor; and, of course, 
answerable to the courts in case they broke their oath of 
office. 

Finally a clause guaranteeing liberty of conscience was 
inserted together with the decree of April 17, 1905, estab- 
lishing religious tolerance. 

On March 2Oth I presented the revised draft to His 
Majesty, who thereupon called a special conference to dis- 
cuss the subject shortly after the Easter holidays. Besides 
the Ministers, many members of the Imperial Council were 
invited to the sessions, among them Count Palen, who was 
Minister of Justice during the reign of Alexander II; 
Goremykin, Count Ignatyev, and Grand Dukes Vladimir 
Alexandrovich, Nikolai Nikolaievich and Mikhail Alex- 
androvich, the latter accompanied by his counsellor, Gen- 
eral Potozky. 

During the discussions several heated controversies took 
place, the first one arising when Grand Duke Nikolai 
Nikolaievich recommended that the number of recruits to 
be summoned to the colours yearly should be fixed in ad- 
vance in the fundamental law, thus preventing the legislative 
body from meddling with this matter. He was vigorously 
opposed by Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, who 
asserted that, since the annual mobilization touched the 
well-being of the people at large so closely, it would be 
demoralizing to disregard the wishes of the popular dele- 
gates in such a question, evidently not a point of basic law, 
but a recurring measure of periodical effect. Stating that 
if we had no faith in the loyalty of the Russian people, we 



MY PREMIERSHIP 353 

should not suffer them to have a Duma at all, but that if we 
believed in their patriotism we should allow their repre- 
sentative body to function naturally, he concluded: "For 
my part, I have abiding faith in Russia, I believe in the 
Russian people, and I believe that their Duma will be pa- 
triotic because it will be made up of public-spirited Russians. 
I have, therefore, no fear of the future." In consequence 
of this plea His Majesty refused to entertain further the 
proposal of Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaievich. 

There was also a sharp difference of opinion among the 
members of this special conference, as in the Council of 
Ministers, regarding judicial tenure of office. The Minister 
of Justice, Akimov, and myself spoke in favour of affirming 
the Emperor's right of dismissing judges. My contentions 
were, first, that the existing principle of the irremovability 
of magistrates restricted only the power of the Minister of 
Justice and of the higher judiciary in general over subordi- 
nate officials, and could not apply to the Emperor himself, 
since the act had been promulgated at a time when the 
Monarch's sovereignty was not subject to limitation; second, 
that, due to the introduction of a new era on October I7th, 
with the concomitant abridgement of the ruler's authority, 
it now became necessary for the first time to decide whether 
or not the Emperor should surrender the prerogative in ^ 
question; third, that if His Majesty reserved this privilege 
exclusively for himself, neither delegating it to subordinates 
nor granting it to the people, the result would be to encour- 
age and safeguard the independence and impartiality of the 
administrators of justice. Count Palen strenuously opposed 
this view, apparently forgetting that while he was Minister 
of Justice, he had found it expedient in the case of examin- 
ing judges to get around the legal prohibition of removal 
by discontinuing the appointment of regular magistrates and 
assigning to all vacancies substitutes, whose tenure is not 
fixed by law, so that at present our examining judges are all 



354 

substitutes. Goremykin, too, warmly advocated a guar- 
antee of judicial tenure*. The Emperor concurred with this 
opinion in spite of the fact that it was held by a minority 
only. And now, what has become of this exalted principle 
of judicial inviolability under the regime of Messrs. 
Stolypin-Shcheglovitov? The members of the conference 
were led to believe that dismissal of judges would be an 
extraordinary measure, always dependent upon His 
Majesty's previous consent; but the Hon. Mr. Shcheglo- 
vitov, the law nothwithstanding, now discharges judges 
right and left according to his own sweet desire, so that the 
Department of Justice is rotten with crawling sycophants of 
the Minister of Justice, from whom all blessings flow, in- 
cluding the privilege of holding office. 

During the discussion of the 3ist chapter concerning the 
security of property, there occurred between myself and 
Goremykin a heated exchange which was fraught with the 
greatest significance, though I did not realize it at the time. 
In criticizing this section, Goremykin remarked, among 
other things, that the coming Duma should not be allowed 
to touch upon confiscation of private estates and that it 
should be dispersed forthwith in case of refusal to comply 
with this injunction. Although the chapter was finally left 
in, the form submitted by the Council of Ministers, this 
vehement expression of Goremykin's was favourably re- 
ceived by many of those present, and the Emperor, too, 
appeared to like it. On my part I declared my opposition 
to such a plan, observing that, whereas one might be un- 
qualifiedly against forcible expropriation, it did not follow 
that the Duma should be prevented from discussing ways 
and means and planning laws in reference to this subject. 
On the contrary, the question, I added, is precisely one 
which the representative assembly should deem it important 
to consider; and, provided its proceedings are legally cor- 
rect, I see no cause for dispersing the Duma, even though 



MY PREMIERSHIP 355 

it does wish to deliberate upon the peasants' problem. In 
the event that the Duma should decide upon some irrational 
measure, the Council of Ministers is organized for the very 
purpose of forestalling the popular assembly's blunders and 
aberrations, I concluded. The debate ended there, but, as 
will be seen later, this controversy was one of the things 
that induced me to tender my resignation. Using this dis- 
pute as a stepping stone, Goremykin, with the assistance of 
Trepov, was enabled to take my place as Premier; and then 
he was constrained to disperse the First Duma when the 
peasants' question came up in that body, since having, so to 
speak, announced his platform at this conference, no other 
course was open to him. 

When the discussion of the draft presented by the Council 
of Ministers was terminated, His Majesty stated that he 
accepted the projected code with the few minor changes, 
mainly editorial corrections, which were decided upon dur- 
ing the conference. The plan was signed in its final form, 
and I considered the matter closed. 

By the time the fundamental laws were definitely ap- 
proved April was well begun, and, having concluded the 
transaction of the loan shortly afterward, I wrote to the 
Emperor on the I4th, asking His Majesty to relieve me 
from my duties as President of the Council of Ministers. 
The following day the Emperor acceded to my request, and 
my withdrawal was officially announced on the 22nd. 

Although it had previously been decided that my place 
would be taken by Goremykin, who had already formed a 
new ministry, the new code of basic laws was as yet unpub- 
lished. I had received intimations before this that the 
statutes would not be promulgated at all, but it was only 
upon leaving the Winter Palace for my home that I called 
General Trepov aside and spoke to him in the following 
strain: "It is clear to everybody that, being Premier no 
longer but simply a member of the Imperial Council, I am 



356 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

not responsible for ensuing developments. Nevertheless, I 
beg of you to see His Majesty at once and tell him that I, 
as his loyal subject, advise him most earnestly to promul- 
gate the fundamental laws without any further delay, for, 
if the Duma convenes without a knowledge of the new 
code, it will begin to function without any predetermined 
course, so that serious confusion and perilous turmoil will 
result." Shortly afterward General Trepov informed me 
that he had given His Majesty an exact report of my recom- 
mendations. However, it was not till April 27th, the very 
day on which the new representative body assembled, that 
the laws were made public, with a few additional changes 
of no significance whatsoever. 

In order to get at the causes of this delay and the supple- 
mentary alterations, it is necessary to take into account the 
following facts, which became known to me only in 1907 
through Vladimir Ivanovitch Kovalevsky, who was my 
assistant when I was Minister of Finances. I was disin- 
clined to put any stock in Kovalevsky's astonishing story 
until he presented documentary proofs, which, incidentally, 
are now in my archives. It appears that as soon as the 
Council of Ministers submitted the draft of the proposed 
fundamental laws to the Emperor, Trepov came into pos- 
session of the text and acquainted Kovalevsky with it, 
requesting him to examine the project and draw up a de- 
tailed report on the subject. In carrying out this investiga- 
tion, Kovalevsky invited the assistance of Muromtzev, who 
became President of the First Duma, Paul Miliukov and 
U. B. Hessen, all three "Cadets" [members of the Consti- 
tutional-Democratic party], in addition to M. M. Kovalev- 
sky, a cultured scholar and liberal, at present a member of 
the Imperial Council. They prepared a statement which 
was transmitted by V. I. Kovalevsky to General Trepov, 
who presented it to His Majesty on the i8th of April. 

The memorandum opens thus: "Under the cover of 



MY PREMIERSHIP 357 

preserving the Imperial prerogatives, the formulators of 
this code have anxiously sought to perpetuate the existing 
unrestraint and irresponsibility of the ministers." After 
more stuff of the same sort, the note proceeds: "In order 
to avoid recasting the whole project, the plan is recom- 
mended for acceptance after the introduction of various 
changes of more or less importance, some, however, being 
merely editorial." Then follows a list of the suggested 
emendations, whose endorsement would not only have 
brought the Emperor's power down to that of M. Fal- 
lieres [President of French Republic] and introduced par- 
liamentarism, but also committed the Government light- 
heartedly to the offhand decision of a chain of the most 
intricate problems bequeathed by Russian history. This 
report, it seems, undermined His Majesty's confidence, so 
that he could not bring himself to sanction the promulga- 
tion of the laws formulated by the Council of Ministers and 
reviewed by the special conference. Ultimately, however, 
under the influence of my telephone conversations, he did 
grant his authorization after the insertion of a few changes, 
mostly inconsequential, made in order to gratify the conceit 
of several back-stairs advisers and General Trepov himself, 
that man with the broad education of a military commander 
and the shallow opinions of an unsophisticated corporal. 

The most important of the modifications introduced were 
the following: (i) The Emperor's power of issuing de- 
crees was restricted, thus increasing the so-called executive 
function of the legislative body, which merely obstructs its 
legitimate law-making activities. During Stolypin's ascend- 
ency, however, this curb did not in the least prevent the 
publication of the Manifesto of June 3rd and the issue of 
decrees palpably in contravention of the fundamental laws. 
(2) The sanction of the Council of Ministers or of its 
President was prescribed for all Imperial orders before 
taking effect, thus adding a sort of parliamentary responsi* 



358 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

bility to the Ministers' accountability to the Emperor. (3) 
The scope of the sectio'n on religious toleration was consid- 
erably narrowed, probably at the instance of some of the 
hierarchs with the support of the Empress. 

This account of the formulation and promulgation of the 
code of fundamental laws shows how unsettled conditions 
were during this period, how people were likely to rush 
from one extreme to the other under the pressure of some 
crisis, and how important a role was played by intriguers 
behind the scenes. 

I wish to cite now the communications which I exchanged 
with His Majesty at the end of my administration. On 
April 14, 1906, I addressed the following letter to His 
Majesty: 

Your Imperial Majesty, 

I had the honour of petitioning your Imperial Majesty most humbly 
for the good of the common cause to set me free from my duties 
as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, before the opening of the 
Imperial Duma, as soon as the loan is effected, and your Majesty 
Was pleased to listen graciously to my considerations. I take the 
liberty of formulating most respectfully the motives which impel me 
to reiterate my aforementioned petition. 

1. As a result of the general baiting whereof I am the object, 
I feel so shattered in body and so nervous that I am not in a posi- 
tion to preserve the presence of mind which is imperative in my po- 
sition, especially under the new conditions. 

2. With all due respect to the firmness and energy of the Min- 
ister of the Interior, I have nevertheless, as is known to your Imperial 
Majesty, found his mode of action as well as the behaviour of some 
of the local administrators inappropriate, especially during the last 
two months, after the mass manifestations of the revolution have 
practically been wiped out. This mode of action, I believe, has 
irritated the majority of the population and resulted in the election 
of extreme elements to the Duma, as a protest against the policy 
of the Government. 

3. My appearance in the Duma together with P. N. Durnovo 
will put both of us in a difficult position. I shall be forced to 
make no remarks in connection with all interpellations touching 



MY PREMIERSHIP 359 

upon such actions of the Government as were carried out either 
without my knowledge or counter to my opinion. As for the Minis- 
ter of the Interior, he will be embarrassed in my presence to offer 
explanations which I cannot countenance. 

4. Regarding certain important political problems, such as the 
religious, the Jewish and the peasant problem, there is no unity either 
in the Council of Ministers or in the influential spheres. Generally 
speaking, I am unable to defend ideas which are out of keeping 
with my convictions, and I cannot share the extremely conservative 
views which have lately become the political credo of the Minister 
of the Interior. 

5. At the last session of the committee on the Fundamental laws, 
Count Palen, member of the Imperial Council, and Chairman of the 
Peasant Conference Goremykin, who is considered by some an expert 
on the peasant problem, expressed their views not only on the sub- 
stance of this problem but also on the future policy of the Govern- 
ment generally. The peasant problem will determine the character 
of the Duma's activity. If the views of these two statesmen are cor- 
rect, they should be given an opportunity to carry them into effect. 

6. For six months I have been the target of all those who write 
or shout and the object of systematic attacks on the part of those 
extremists who have access to your Imperial Majesty. The revolu- 
tionists anathematize me for having lent the entire weight of my 
authority to the most stringent measures directed against the revolu- 
tion ; liberals curse me because, in fulfilment of my oath and in obe- 
dience to my conscience, I have defended the prerogatives of the 
Imperial authority, as I will defend them till my dying hour ; finally, 
the conservatives inveigh against me because they falsely ascribed 
to me those changes in the governmental regime, which had taken 
place since the appointment of Prince Svyatopolk-Mirski as Minister 
of the Interior.* So long as I am in power, I shall be the target 
of bitter attacks on all hands. The most harmful thing is the 
distrustful attitude toward the President of the Council on the 
part of conservative noblemen and highest officials, who naturally 
have access to the Czar and who inevitably infect your Majesty 
with their own doubts and views. 

7. Upon the opening of the Duma the Government must seek 
to work in harmony with it, or else it must be prepared to take 

* I welcomed that appointment and I have always had a feeling of friendship and 
respect for Prince Mirski, but he was nominated without my participation, for at 
that time I was in disfavor, holding the office of President of the Committee of 
Ministers. 



360 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

the most extreme measures. In the first case, the change in the 
membership of the Cabinet is apt to facilitate the task of the Gov- 
ernment, for it will eliminate the ground for violent attacks upon 
the head of the Cabinet and the individual Ministers, against whom 
much animosity has accumulated in late months. Thus all agree- 
ments are likely to be reached more easily. Should the Government, 
however, decide upon a policy of repression, its activity would needs 
centre around the Ministries of the Interior, of Justice, and of War. 
In that case I would be but a hindrance and no matter how I might 
act I would be the object of malignant criticism. 

I could respectfully present additional, and in my judgment, well- 
grounded arguments in support of my petition to free me from my 
duties as Chairman of the Council of Ministers previous to the 
opening of the Duma, but it appears to me that the arguments 
cited are sufficient to decide Your Majesty graciously io grant 
my demand I would have addressed you this petition earlier, 
as soon as I noticed that my position as President of the Council 
of Ministers became unstable, but I did not think I had the right 
to do it, as long as the country's financial position was in so precarious 
a state; I was aware of my obligation to make every effort to ward 
off Russia's financial collapse and to prevent conditions under which 
the Duma, taking advantage of the Government's financial straits, 
might force it to make concessions answering the purpose of the indi- 
vidual parties, and inimical to the interests of the State as a whole, 
with which interests your Imperial Majesty is inseparably identified. 
It is not for naught that all the revolutionary and anti-Governmental 
parties hold me to blame chiefly because of my participation in the 
negotiations for the loan. At this moment the loan is concluded and 
concluded successfully, so that your Imperial Majesty need no longer 
be anxious about the means for the liquidation of the debts incurred 
in connection with the war. At the same time, the unrest has to a 
certain extent died down. Under these conditions, when your Im- 
perial Majesty is in a position to turn your attention to the internal 
organization of the Empire and to direct the activity of the Duma 
into an appropriate channel, I believe I have the moral right to renew 
my petition. Therefore, I take the liberty of laying at the feet of 
Your Imperial Majesty my most loyal solicitation for a discharge 
from the office of President of the Council of Ministers. 

On the evening of the same day (April I4th) I called 
the Council of Ministers into session and read them my 



MY PREMIERSHIP 361 

petition to His Majesty. The Ministers, including Dur- 
novo, were apparently displeased with my step, for it ren- 
dered their own position insecure. Some of them expressed 
the desire immediately to send in their resignation, but I 
persuaded them to refrain from so doing. Only the Minister 
of Instruction, I. I. Tolstoy, was satisfied with my step. He 
knew, he said, what an intrigue was going on against me at 
the Court, and he felt certain that the Emperor would have 
gotten rid of me at the first opportunity, as soon as he felt 
that he could master the situation without my assistance. 
Two days later I received from His Majesty the follow- 
ing autographic message: 

Count Sergey Yulyevich: 

Yesterday morning I received the letter in which you ask me to 
relieve you of the offices which you are now holding. I agree to grant 
your demand. The successful conclusion of the loan is the best 
page in the history of your activities. It is a great moral success for 
the Government and a guarantee of the future peaceful development 
of Russia. It appears that in Europe, too, the prestige of our country 
is high.* How things will shape themselves after the opening of 
the Duma, God alone knows. My view of the future is not as 
pessimistic as yours. It seems to me that the membership of the 
Duma has proved to be so radical not because of the Government's 
repressive measures, but owing to the excessive liberalism of the 
franchise law of December nth, the inactivity of the conservative 
mass of the population and the complete non-interference with the 
election campaign on the part of the authorities, which is never prac- 
ticed in other countries.** I thank you sincerely, Sergey Yulyevich, 
for your devotion to me and the zeal with which you have laboured at 



The Emperor must have thought that our prestige was especially high in Asia, 
er the disgraceful Russo-Japanese War. Several courtiers told me that His 
Majesty repeatedly expressed himself to the effect that the Russians had badly 



beaten the Japanese. 

** This sounds like reproaching me for not having manipulated the elections. 
As a matter of fact, on September 22nd, 1905, the Minister of the Interior issued a 
circular to the proper authorities, which contained the following passage: "The sacred 
will of His Imperial Majesty obligates all those charged with watching over the 
regularity of the elections, by every available means to guarantee to the population 
the possibility of electing the men who enjoy _its confidence most, quietly and with- 
out any external interference. I, therefore, enjoin upon you to see that the Govern- 
mental officials and institutions should not permit themselves to exert the slightest 
pressure upon the election of deputies to the Imperial Duma." Upon the whole, 
these instructions were carried out, for the reason that I was in complete agreement 
with the spirit of ^ylygin's circular. Stolypin's Government has, in fact, abandoned 
the policy of non-interference, and at present (1908) the elections are a mockery. 



362 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

the responsible post you have occupied for the last six months under 
exceptionally trying circumstances. I wish you to take a rest and 
recover your health. Thankfully, Nicholas." 

The following Imperial rescript was published on April 
22nd: 

Count Sergey Yulyevich : 

The impairment of your health, brought on by your excessive 
labours, has compelled you to petition me for a release from the office 
of President of the Council of Ministers. In summoning you to 
this important post for the execution of my designs relating especially 
to the admission of my subjects to the legislative bodies, I was cer- 
tain that your tried statesmanlike abilities would facilitate the inau- 
guration of the new elective institutions which have been created for 
the purpose of giving reality to the rights I have granted to the 
population. Owing to your persistent and enlightened labours, these 
institutions have now been shaped and are ready to be opened, in 
spite of the obstacles which were thrown in your way by the sedi- 
tious elements, whom you combatted with your characteristic energy 
and resoluteness. Simultaneously, through your experience in finan- 
cial matters, you have contributed to the stabilization of the coun- 
try's financial resources by insuring the success of the recent foreign 
loan. In granting your most loyal request, I wish to express my most 
sincere and hearty gratitude to you for the numerous services you 
have rendered to the country. In recognition of these services I 
create you Knight of the Order of Saint Alexander Nevski with 
Diamonds [the last two words in the Emperor's own hand.] I 
remain unalterably well-disposed to you and sincerely grateful [the 
last three words autographed]. Nicholas. 

The next day I presented myself officially at the Court to 
thank His Majesty for having accepted my resignation. 
I was also given the opportunity to take leave of Her 
Majesty. Both the Emperor and the Empress were very 
amiable, although Her Majesty has never been well disposed 
to me. It is said an interjection of relief was her only 
comment on the news of my resignation. 



CHAPTER XIII 
STOLYPIN'S REACTIONARY REGIME 

IN the course of my audience with the Emperor which 
followed upon my withdrawal from the office of Prime Min- 
ister, His Majesty asked me to accept the first post of Am- 
bassador to a European country which might become vacant, 
and ordered me to remind him of his promise as soon as 
such an opening presented itself. A year later I did so, but 
received no answer from the Emperor. He also asked me 
to return all the letters he had sent me throughout the 
period of my administration. I complied with his request, 
which later I greatly regretted. Those letters, reflecting 
as they did the Emperor's thoughts and opinions in all their 
unadorned directness, should have been preserved for the 
benefit of posterity. 

Several weeks later I went abroad. In July, while 
sojourning at Aix-les-Bains, France, I received the follow- 
ing message from Baron Frederichs: 

I deem it necessary to share with you the impression made upon 
me by a conversation which I have just had with His Majesty. When 
your name was mentioned in connection with the present political 
situation, His Majesty expressed himself to the effect that your return 
at present to Russia would be highly undesirable. I have judged it 
advisable to inform you of this opinion of His Majesty in order that 
you may accordingly arrange the plan of your trip. 

This was obviously equivalent to an order on the part of 
His Majesty forbidding my return to Russia. I imme- 
diately sent in an application asking to be relieved of the 
offices which I was still holding, including membership in 

363 



364 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

the Imperial Council. Several days later I heard that the 
Duma had been dissolved. Unwilling to add to the diffi- 
culties of the Government, I had my petition held in St. 
Petersburg. 

On August 2Oth, I wrote to Baron Frederichs as follows : 

Having received your letter of July 17th, with the amiable advice 
not to return to my country at this time, I mailed a petition of 
resignation the following day. But becoming aware of the disastrous 
consequences which the dissolution of the Duma may have, and find- 
ing it unpatriotic to air personal grievances at such a time, I stopped 
the letter in St. Petersburg. Since that time upward of a month has 
passed, and at present I consider it possible to take up the matter 
again. When I left the post of President of the Council of Minis- 
ters, for reasons which I had the honour to report to His Majesty and 
which had been by no means new to him, I failed to notice any 
discrepancy between my step and the Emperor's views. In fact, 
His Imperial Majesty very graciously relieved me from my office and 
publicly recognized my services by means of a very favourable rescript 
and a suitable reward. Thereupon, a Cabinet was formed for whose 
members the Duma and the majority of the people could have no 
other feeling but that of contempt mingled with hostility. This 
Cabinet was to act the part of an impregnable "rock" (His Majesty's 
expression). And indeed it was a rock, in the sense that it sustained 
the blows of the waves without breathing a word and without being 
able to mould the course of events. ... As a result of the subse- 
quent dissolution of the Duma, the ministerial rock has practically 
crumbled away. . . . 

No sooner did I retire from the office of President of the Council 
of Ministers than the official attitude toward me underwent an 
abrupt change. The semi-official paper of the Cabinet immediately 
opened a campaign of insinuations against me. The Ministers gave 
anonymous interviews to foreign correspondents, stating their polit- 
ical credo and making this an occasion for surreptitious attacks on 
me. . . . Finally, to-day, the newspapers carry a telegram sent to 
Kaiser Wilhelm by the monarchist party of the "true Russians" [Black 
Hundreds], which blames all of Russia's misfortunes upon me and 
brands me as a Jewish ruler. It has also come to my knowledge 
that some of the members of the Imperial family accuse me of 
being the cause of all that is now happening in our country. As a 



STOLYPIN'S REACTIONARY REGIME 365 

truly noble-hearted witness of the events which preceded and followed 
the publication of the Manifesto of October I7th, and as a member 
of my Cabinet, you know how little truth there is in these accusa- 
tions. And now I hear that in St. Petersburg dissertations are being 
written to prove that it was Witte who brought about the disturb- 
ances and also the war. . . . And I, in my official capacity, must 
leave all these charges unanswered. 

All this forces me to return to the original intention which I 
conceived on receiving your letter advising me not to return to 
Russia "at this time," although "at this time" even revolutionary 
emigrants and bombists have found in our country a shelter, either 
open or underground. As you know me, you do not doubt, I hope, 
that above all I hate to cause displeasure to His Majesty or even 
merely to discommode him. I grant that my complete withdrawal 
from State service may not be in keeping with His Majesty's desires 
or intentions. Nevertheless, the feeling of self-respect prompts me to 
petition His Majesty for complete retirement. As I do not possess 
the necessary means and as I do not wish to deprive my family of 
the comforts to which they are accustomed, I propose to offer my 
services to private institutions, thus earning sufficient means and 
indirectly benefiting society. Considering the spirit of these times, 
it may not be necessary to add that no change in my position will 
ever be able to shake my loyalty to my Sovereign and to those prin- 
ciples which His Majesty impersonates and which are bred in my 
bones. I trust that your chivalrous disposition will prompt you to 
see that this letter be answered without delay. 

This message was, of course, brought to His Majesty's 
attention, but days passed and no answer came. On Octo- 
ber loth I dispatched to the Baron a letter which I shall 
quote in part: 

Twenty days ago I informed you about the manner in which I 
reacted to your letter of July 1 7th, the insulting significance of which 
has been rendered more emphatic by the subsequent developments. . . . 
The fact that my letter has remained unanswered I interpret as an 
indication that the Emperor is entirely indifferent to the outcome of 
this affair. Therefore, I herewith request you to kindly present to His 
Imperial Majesty the enclosed petition. I urgently beg your assist- 
ance in obtaining a satisfactory reply with the least possible delay. 



366 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Thereupon I went to Brussels to visit my son-in-law, 
and it was there that I received the following letter from 
the Minister of the Court : 

Upon the receipt of your letter, I did not fail to report it in sub- 
stance to His Majesty, but I had to wait for an opportune moment 
to take up the matter of your return to Russia with the Emperor, 
which I did in the course of our trip to Norway. I can now tell 
you with assurance that in advising you not to return to Russia His 
Majesty had in mind exclusively the circumstances of that moment. 
He thought your presence here undesirable because he feared that 
ill-intentioned persons might use you as a pretext for adding to the 
difficulties of the Cabinet, but His Majesty was by no means actuated 
by personal enmity toward you. Acknowledging your desire to return 
to Russia to attend to your private affairs and believing that at the 
present moment your return will not cause any serious complications 
of a political character, His Majesty has commissioned me to inform 
you that he sees no obstacles to your return. I take pleasure in 
adding that on your return you will be cordially received by His 
Majesty and that it is the Emperor's absolute desire that you should 
not retire from State service. 

I immediately wired to the Baron, letting him know that, 
if he saw fit, he might refrain from presenting my second 
letter to His Majesty. The Baron's reply came immedi- 
ately. He informed me that he had not thought it proper 
to submit my letter together with the accompanying petition 
to the Emperor. 

From Brussels I went back to Paris whence I intended 
to proceed to St. Petersburg. In Paris I received a tele- 
gram, in French, signed by Prince M. Andronikov, a cross 
between a spy con amore and a titled hanger-on. The text 
of the dispatch follows: 

Having learned about your intention soon to return to Russia, 
and actuated by sincere devotion to you, I entreat you to prolong your 
stay abroad. The menace to your life here is more serious than you 
imagine. My last word is: "Come here if you wish to die." 



STOLYPIN'S REACTIONARY REGIME 367 

Several days later (in October, 1906), I left for St. 
Petersburg. On arriving there, I went to see Prime Min- 
ister Stolypin and asked him to bring pressure to bear to 
the end that I might be completely relieved from State 
service. "If you insist on resigning," Stolypin said, "we 
will not keep you by main force, but let it be known to you 
that your withdrawal, especially at this time, will be equiva- 
lent to a successful bomb attack by anarchists." Naturally, 
I gave up my intention and since that time I have never 
raised that question again. Several days later I had an 
interview with the Emperor. He received me as if nothing 
had happened and did not say a word either about his pro- 
hibiting my return to Russia or about my attempt to resign. 

I shall now turn to the political conditions as they have 
shaped themselves since I left the post of President of the 
Council of Ministers. There is but little to be said about 
my successor Goremykin. A bureaucratic nonentity, he had 
no definite program and achieved nothing. His cabinet 
did not outlast the first Duma, which existed some two 
months, and was succeeded by Stolypin's. This statesman 
was the embodiment of political immorality and the mem- 
bers of his Cabinet were not far superior to him. He ruled 
Russia by violating each and every law and he disdained no 
means, however reprehensible, to keep himself in power. 
Prior to the dissolution of the Second Duma he did not 
have the courage to reveal his true nature, which was that 
of an unprincipled, self-seeking office-hunter. In order to 
enlist the support of some of the elements of the population, 
he made Liberal speeches and adopted Liberal measures. 
But already early in his career he took under his protection 
"The Union of the ^Russian People," so-called. In his 
administration, this bbdy, which consisted of plain thieves 
and hooligans, acquired great weight, for it was in every 
way assisted by the Government. 

During the first two years after my return from abroad, 



3 68 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

now and then I exchanged official visits with Stolypin, but 
as time went on the intervals between the visits grew longer. 
The main cause of Stolypin's animosity toward me was the 
fact that in my speeches in the Imperial Council I did not 
hesitate to attack him when the occasion called for it. It 
should be noted that my word had always carried weight in 
the Council. A serious conflict occurred between us in con- 
nection with the problem of a Naval General Staff. I suc- 
ceeded in showing that, to please the Duma majority, 
Stolypin intended to limit the Emperor's prerogatives, in 
contravention of the fundamental laws of the land. As a 
result, His Majesty refused to sanction Stolypin's bill, which 
had been approved by both the Duma and the Imperial 
Council. A second time we came to a grave clash over the 
problem of introducing the Zemstvo institutions in the 
Western provinces. 

The outcome of this conflict was that Stolypin tendered 
his resignation. His Majesty refused to accept it, for he 
believed that Stolypin had put an end to the revolution and 
that his withdrawal would spell disaster for the regime. 
What methods Stolypin used to convince the world that he 
had pacified the country may be seen from the following two 
incidents. 

Shortly after his attempt to resign, a district attorney 
was assassinated on board a train. The crime was ob- 
viously a terroristic revolutionary act, but the investigation 
was conducted so as to present it as a plain murder com- 
mitted with the intention of robbing. Finally, a man was 
arrested who declared that he had done the deed, acting 
under orders of the revolutionary committee. The man 
was put in jail at Sebastopol. Then the guards intimated 
to the prisoner that he would be allowed to escape, but 
when he made an attempt to flee the sentinels shot him 
dead, thus destroying the only proof that the crime was of a 
political nature. 



STOLYPIN'S REACTIONARY REGIME 369 

This incident was related to me by Privy Councillor 
Przeradski, one of Stolypin's closest assistants. He also 
told me of a similar case which concerned him personally. 
In 1905, a relation of his, a naval officer by the name of 
Kurosh, bombarded the Finnish revolutionists who had 
hoisted the red flag over the fortress of Helsingfors. The 
revolutionists retaliated by killing, six years later, his seven- 
teen-year-old son. The investigation was conducted with 
the intention of proving that the young man had committed 
suicide, although the boy was shot before the very eyes of 
both Przeradski and his wife by a man who appeared at the 
open window of the victim's room. To characterize the 
manner in which the investigation was conducted, my in- 
formant stated that in the witnesses' depositions some of 
the sheets were removed and substituted by forged testi- 
monies corroborating the preconceived thesis of the examin- 
ing magistrate, namely, that this was a case of suicide. 

When I expressed my amazement at what might be the 
possible reason for these practices, Przeradski explained 
that after Stolypin's attempt to resign he issued instructions 
that all the political crimes should be presented as plain 
murders. It was apparently the Premier's intention to show 
that no terroristic acts were possible under his administra- 
tion. "Why didn't you appeal," I said, "to the Minister 
of the Navy and the Minister of Justice?" Przeradski 
declared that he did speak to the Minister of the Navy and 
that the latter was indignant but could do nothing. As for 
Shcheglovitov, he was little more than Stolypin's valet, 
Przeradski said, so that it was quite useless to expect any 
independent action from him. 

Stolypin disregarded the regulations relating to the bud- 
get, and under him the discussion of the report of the State 
Comptroller by the Duma became a mere formality. But 
it is Stolypin's treatment of Article 87 of the Fundamental 
Laws that illustrates best how unceremoniously he violated 



370 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

the laws he had been called to uphold. That celebrated 
article, of which I am the author, provides for the enact- 
ment of urgent and extraordinary measures by the Em- 
peror's authority at the recommendation of the Council of 
Ministers during the time when the Duma is not in session. 
The article expressly stipulates that only such measures 
may thus be adopted as do not affect either the fundamental 
laws or the regulations relating to the Duma and Imperial 
Council. Furthermore, a regulation thus enacted ceases to 
be valfd if it is not approved by the Duma within one 
month after its re-opening. 

Now, Stolypin abused this provision in the most extraor- 
dinary fashion. By distorting the perfectly clear meaning 
of the article, he sought to mould the destinies of the 
country after his own will. In virtue of it he passed a great 
many laws of capital importance by his own authority, and 
in order to do so he purposely dissolved the legislative 
institutions, sometimes for as short a period as three days. 
It was on the strength of this clause that he promulgated 
a new election law, which was in itself a complete coup- 
d'etat and which resulted in the submissive Third Duma. 
It was also on the strength of this article that Stolypin 
introduced court-martial in a form unknown in any country 
pretending to be civilized. 

At the time when I assumed the burden of power, capital 
punishment in Russia was practised arbitrarily and without 
uniformity. Identical crimes were in some districts pun- 
ished by death, while in others they were not. To impose 
order upon this chaos I introduced a bill which sought to 
define the criminal acts which were under the jurisdiction 
of the court-martial and could be punished by death. The 
project won an overwhelming majority in the Imperial 
Council, but when it was submitted for approval to the 
Emperor, he refused to sanction it. Thus the situation 
regarding capital punishment remained unchanged. 






STOLYPIN'S REACTIONARY REGIME 371 



When Stolypin formed his Cabinet, after the Duma had 
been dissolved by Goremykin, he introduced field court- 
martial, which set the hands of the administration entirely 
free in the application of capital punishment. The new law 
went as far as demanding that the judges should be not 
military jurists, but plain officers of the line. The Second 
Duma refused to approve this law, whereupon Stolypin did 
not hesitate to modify several paragraphs in the military 
and naval regulations through the Army and Navy coun- 
cils, thus safeguarding by his own authority the court- 
martial which he had created. The Government began to 
execute people right and left at the discretion of the admin- 
istration. Capital punishment, in fact, has become an act 
of assassination by the Governmental authorities. Men and 
women, adults and mere youngsters are executed alike for 
a political assassination and for robbing a vodka shop of 
five rubles. Sometimes a prisoner is executed for a crime 
committed five or six years previously. And to think that 
this orgy of executions has been going on for six years after 
Stolypin declared "pacification" an accomplished fact! 

Stolypin's treatment of the Duma was consistent with 
the general trend of his policy. I have already spoken, in 
another connection, of the history of the Duma election law. 
While nearly all the classes of the population sought, dur- 
ing the revolutionary days, to limit the Emperor's authority, 
the mass of the peasantry remained inarticulate. It was 
therefore imagined that the peasants would be loyal to the 
Czar, and the election law was so arranged as to grant the 
peasant class a proportionately larger representation than 
any other group. But a disappointment was in store for 
the Government. When the Duma opened, it was found 
that all the peasant deputies who had a definite platform 
were unanimous in demanding an additional allotment of 
land as a natural sequel to the abolition of serfdom, the 
great reform carried out by Emperor Alexander II. And 



372 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

so, when Goremykin appeared before the Duma and de- 
clared that private property was sacred, that the expropria- 
tion of the landowners for the benefit of the peasants was 
an impossible dream, etc., the peasant members abandoned 
the Government and pinned their faith to the Constitutional 
Democratic Party, which promised them land, and freedom 
into the bargain. 

It was then that the landowning nobility, forgetting their 
new-fangled liberalism, began to vociferate: "Treason is 
rampant in the land; the sacred right of property, the 
foundation of all modern civilized states, is endangered; 
the Czar's servants are betraying him either through lack 
of character or because of insidiousness; those who advocate 
distribution of land among the peasants must be severely 
punished." To make a long story short, the Duma was 
dispersed and a number of the delegates retired to the city 
of Vyborg, Finland, where they issued a vain appeal calling 
upon all Russian citizens not to pay taxes or furnish army 
recruits until the legislative body was reconvened. 

The Duma members who signed the Vyborg Appeal were 
arraigned by Stolypin. His purpose was to deprive them 
of the right to be elected to the Imperial Duma. As the 
Minister of Justice was a mere plaything in his hands, 
Stolypin brought pressure to bear upon the judicial authori- 
ties, and the offenders were sentenced to imprisonment and 
deprivation of the right of election to the Duma. Com- 
petent jurists told me that the trial was both unlawful and 
unfair. The trial was not an act of justice, but a clever 
political move against the Cadet Party, for most of the 
convicted deputies were members of that organization. 

The Second Duma differed but little from the First, 
although by a dexterous manipulation of the law Stolypin 
succeeded in barring from the elections a great many prom- 
inent public leaders, who as members of the First Duma 
had signed the celebrated Vyborg Appeal. Both Dumas 






STOLYPIN'S REACTIONARY REGIME 373 

owed their membership to the same election regulations and 
both stood for a regime based on the people's political con- 
sciousness as opposed to a regime founded on the selfish 
opinions and whims of a Court camarilla. As the character 
of the Second Duma immediately became clear to the Gov- 
ernment, the legislative body was dissolved after it had 
been in session for a period of some three months, and, on 
the strength of Article 87, a new election law, known as the 
Law of June 3rd, was simultaneously promulgated. This 
law deprived several border provinces of the franchise and 
cut down the number of delegates from the rest of the 
border provinces. It drastically reduced the representation 
of the peasants and workmen and provided for the adminis- 
tration's direct influence upon the elections. In sum, the 
statute of June 3rd gave a decisive prevalence in the Duma 
to the propertied classes and especially to the large land- 
owners. The purpose of this act was to obtain a Duma 
majority agreeable to the Government. When P. N. Dur- 
novo in my presence once asked Kryzhanovsky, the author 
of that law, why certain regulations varied with the locality, 
the latter explained naively that all this was arranged with 
a view to securing "reliable" electors. This measure ren- 
dered the Duma both useless and unfaithful to its original 
purpose of voicing the wishes of the country. While the 
Imperial Council feared and, to a certain extent, reckoned 
with the First Duma, it neither fears nor reckons with the 
present (Third) Duma. It is noteworthy that the Govern- 
ment did not hesitate to use methods of coercion and bribery 
to influence the elections to the Third Duma. Thus, 
Stolypin put at the disposal of General Reinbot, Governor- 
General of Moscow, a special fund to buy votes for Guch- 
kov, ostensibly the Octobrist candidate. The result was a 
legislative body not elected by the Russian people but 
selected by Stolypin. 

Before the Law of June 3rd was passed, Baron Fred- 



374 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

erichs asked me what I thought of that measure. I do not 
know whether he did it on his own account or whether he 
was sent to me by people higher up. I pointed out to him 
that two ways were open to the Government. It could 
either wait patiently till the Duma became reasonable, or 
else a new election act, free from the failings of the existing 
one, must be elaborated with great care, taking advantage 
of the experience gained in applying the present regulations. 
Should the Government choose the first alternative, how- 
ever, it would have to adhere in good faith to the letter and 
spirit of the Act of October 17, 1905. My advice was not 
heeded. The Second Duma was dissolved and there was 
promulgated the new election law, which had been con- 
cocted in great haste. 

At my instance, the fundamental laws gave the Emperor 
very extensive prerogatives in matters pertaining to the 
defence of the country. When Stolypin enacted the election 
law of June 3rd, which resulted in an obedient Duma, with a 
majority belonging to the self-styled party of October I7th, 
so-called, a tacit agreement was made between the Govern- 
ment and the Duma. In virtue of it the Duma was allowed 
to criticize the military policy of the Government, but, in 
return, obligated itself not to touch upon Stolypin's regime 
of White Terror which was then at its worst. It was as if 
Stolypin spoke to the leaders of the Octobrist Duma ma- 
jority in terms not unlike these: "You may play soldiers 
as long as you please; I shall not interfere with you, all 
the more so that I understand nothing of military matters. 
But you must not interfere with me, you must let me play 
the bloody game of executions and court-martial." 

The Duma appointed a Committee on Defence, which 
began to discuss military matters with a comical air of 
competence. In the meantime the Octobrists' crack orators 
made long speeches, inveighing against the military budget 
of the Government, flaunting their patriotic ardour, and 



STOLYPIN'S REACTIONARY REGIME 375 

denouncing the Grand Dukes, to whom the Emperor was in 
a habit of addressing special rescripts of gratitude in recog- 
nition of their great services to the State. Such speeches 
were a novelty in Russia. Naturally enough, the general 
public admired the courage of these orators and expected 
much of them. But those who knew the speakers, and had 
also some familiarity with military matters could not be 
deceived as to the precise value of those performances. 
That the Grand Dukes often occupied important military 
posts for which they were not in the least qualified was 
known to everyone. Such a favouritism was, no doubt, a 
great evil. As for the rest, the speeches of the Octobrist 
leaders contained little except hearsay matter. Guchkov, the 
chief Duma orator on military matters, had a very limited 
and dubious knowledge of the subject he discoursed upon. 
He was in fact little more than a merchant by profession, 
with a weakness for military adventures. The utter incom- 
petence of the Duma in military matters came to light espe- 
cially in 1909, when it submitted to the Imperial Council a 
bill dealing with the General Staff of the Navy and provid- 
ing for the complete control of both the budget and the 
technical organization of the General Staff by the Duma 
and the Imperial Council. 

The Imperial Council, reformed in pursuance of the con- 
stitutional Manifesto, was intended to work in harmony with 
the Duma, the two legislative bodies completing each other. 
In reality, however, both subjected the legislative drafts 
laid before them to identical manipulations and were alto- 
gether out of harmony. If the Duma said "White," the 
conservative faction of the Imperial Council was sure to 
say "Black." 

Stolypin's treatment of the thorny Jewish question is a 
striking illustration of his unprincipled policies and reckless 
methods. His views of this problem were almost diametri- 
cally opposed to mine. It has always been my conviction 



376 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

that the policy of restrictions cannot bring any results, for 
the reason that in the long run this policy cannot be fol- 
lowed out. The history of the Jewish people in western 
countries bears out this assertion with sufficient clearness. 
It is possible to assume various attitudes towards Jews. One 
may hate them, or be indifferent to them. That is a matter 
of personal feeling. But our emotional attitude cannot alter 
the natural course of events, in virtue of which the Jews, 
since they are human beings after all, acquire the full meas- 
use of civic rights. I believe, however, that the abolition 
of Jewish disabilities must be gradual and as slow as pos- 
sible. 

This view was held by both Nicholas I and Alexander 
II. Emperor Alexander III somewhat deviated from this 
tendency and entered upon the road of anti-Jewish restric- 
tions. But like everything done by Alexander III, his anti- 
Jewish policy was firm but moderate and judicious. 

Emperor Alexander III asked me on one occasion: "Is 
it true that you are in sympathy with the Jews?" "The only 
way I can answer this question," I replied to the Emperor, 
"is by asking Your Majesty whether you think it possible 
to drown all the Russian Jews in the Black Sea. To do so 
would, of course, be a radical solution of the problem. But 
if Your Majesty will recognize the right of the Jews to live, 
then conditions must be created which will enable them to 
carry on a human existence. In that case, gradual abolition 
of the disabilities is the only adequate solution of the Jewish 
problem." 

His Majesty said nothing, but he never showed that he 
disapproved of my attitude toward the Russian Jews. It 
has remained substantially the same throughout my career. 
As Minister of Finance I vigorously opposed all measures 
intended to restrict the rights of the Jews, but it was not 
in my power to repeal the existing laws against the Jews. 
Many of these laws were unjust, and, upon the whole these 



STOLYPIN'S REACTIONARY REGIME 377 

laws did much harm to Russia and Russians. In dealing 
with the Jewish legislation, I did not consider primarily the 
advantages to be derived from a certain measure by the 
Jewish race. What was foremost in my mind was the effect 
of this or that measure upon Russia as a whole. 

All the more important legal provisions relating to the 
Jews, which have become effective in the course of the last 
decade, were enacted as temporary measures. The decrees 
usually opened with the Pharisaic formula: "Pending the 
revision of the laws relating to the Jews, we order, etc.," 
the intimation being that such a revision would be favour- 
able to the Jewish population. The truth of the matter is 
that the authors of the anti-Jewish laws did not have the 
courage to offer a radical and statesmanlike solution of the 
problem. As it was known that the Imperial Council was 
likely to oppose these restrictive measures, or, at least, tell 
the Ministers a few unpleasant truths, the anti-Jewish regu- 
lations were enacted either by the Committee of Ministers, 
by special commissions, or else by Imperial decrees. 

Among the most implacable enemies of the Russian Jews 
was Grand Duke Sergey Alexandrovich, the man who, by 
his ultra-reactionary and near-sighted policy, drove Moscow 
into the arms of the revolutionists. The measures which 
the Grand Duke adopted against the Jews of Moscow the 
Committee of Ministers refused to sanction, so that they 
had to be passed either by special commissions or directly by 
Imperial decrees. 

It will take decades or, more probably, centuries to do 
away altogether with the Jewish question. The racial 
peculiarities of the Jews will disappear only gradually and 
slowly. Had the Government followed Alexander II's 
policy toward the Jews, they would not have become one of 
the evil factors of our accursed revolution. The Jewish 
question would have lost its peculiar acuteness and would 



378 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

have assumed the form in which it exists at present in all 
those countries where Jews live in considerable numbers. 

The whole mass of the legislation regarding the Jews con- 
sists of legal provisions of an extremely vague character. 
This circumstance led to a number of arbitrary and con- 
flicting interpretations, which became a source of all man- 
ner of graft. No element of the population is so thor- 
oughly mulcted by the Administration as the Jews are. In 
some regions the graft has assumed the form of a veritable 
tax upon the Jews. Under these conditions, the whole bur- 
den of the anti-Jewish policy falls upon the poorer class of 
the Jews, for the more opulent a Jew is, the easier it is for 
him to smooth his way by means of graft and the less he 
feels the pressure of the restrictive measures. Not only do 
the wealthy Jews not feel the oppression of their legal dis- 
abilities, but they are, to a certain extent, in a domineering 
position, inasmuch as they exert influence upon the high local 
officials. 

In the early '8o's the Senate combatted this state of 
affairs, seeking to eliminate all arbitrary interpretations of 
the laws and all illegal restrictions upon the Jewish popu- 
lation. The result was that some of the Senators were de- 
nounced by the Minister of the Interior for interfering with 
the Administration. They were subjected to abuse and some 
of the more refractory were even removed and replaced by 
more obedient members. Consequently, the Senate, too, 
began to interpret the laws relating to the Jews in a manner 
distinctly anti-Jewish. 

All this naturally rendered the Jewish masses revolu- 
tionary, especially the younger element, the process being 
furthered by the Russian schools. From the pusillanimous 
people that the Jews were some thirty years ago there 
sprang men and women who threw bombs, committed polit- 
ical murders and sacrificed their lives for the revolution. 
Of course, all the Jews have not become revolutionists, but 



STOLYPIN'S REACTIONARY REGIME 379 

it is certain that no nationality in Russia has yielded such a 
large percentage of extreme radicals as the Jewish. Nearly 
the entire Jewish intellectual class, including graduates of 
the institutions of higher learning, joined the "Party of the 
People's Freedom" (the Constitutional Democrats), which 
promised them equal rights. This political party owes much 
of its influence to the Jews, who lent it both intellectual and 
financial support. 

I repeatedly warned the Jewish leaders, both in Russia 
and abroad, that they had entered upon a hazardous road 
and were likely to add to the acuteness of the Jewish prob- 
lem in Russia. I told them that they must show an example 
of loyalty to the existing regime, and to seek to better their 
condition by appealing to the Czar's Government. I advised 
them, instead of dreaming of revolutionary freedom, to 
adopt the motto : "The only thing we beg is not to be dis- 
criminated against." But I pleaded in vain. Blinded by 
revolutionary ardour and deluded by the Cadet leaders, 
they disregarded my well-intentioned counsel. 

Indeed, how could they heed the voice of prudence and 
loyalty to the Czar at the moment when, as they thought, 
they stood on the threshold of the triumph of the revolution, 
which meant also the triumph of the principle of equal rights 
for the Jews ! 

The outcome was a strong reaction. Many people who 
formerly either sympathized with the Jews or were indiff- 
erent to them, turned pronounced Jew-haters. Russian 
Jews never had as many enemies as they have now, nor was 
the outlook for the Jews ever more sombre than it is at the 
present. Such a state of affairs is highly unfavourable to 
the pacification of the country. It is my profound convic- 
tion that as long as the Jewish problem is handled in an 
unstatesmanlike, vindictive and non-humanitarian fashion, 
Russia will remain in a state of unrest and upheaval. On 
the other hand, I fear that the immediate granting of full 



3 8o THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

rights to the Jews may lead to new disturbances and com- 
plications, thus defeating its purpose. I repeat, problems 
involving the historical prejudices of the masses which are 
based on race peculiarities, can be solved only by degrees 
and slowly. In these matters one should avoid disturbing 
the equilibrum, even though it should be a temporary and 
artificial equilibrium. A body politic is a living organism, 
and one must be exceedingly cautious in operating upon it. 

The anti-Jewish legislation of 1882 is identified with the 
name of Count N. P. Ignatyev. He did much harm to the 
country by pursuing a ruthless anti-Jewish policy. Such an 
ultra-conservative but intelligent statesman as was Count 
Tolstoy, Minister of the Interior under Alexander III, 
would not have committed this mistake. He did not suc- 
ceed in undoing Ignatyev's work, but he refrained from fol- 
lowing in his footsteps. After Tolstoy's death, I. K. 
Durnovo resumed Ignatyev's policy, although he was on the 
best of terms with some of the Jewish millionaires. A man 
of very limited intelligence, he was prompted to take this 
course of action by his desire to please the Court cama- 
rilla, where the spirit of Jew-baiting was at that time pre- 
dominant. But it is Plehve who was the leading spirit of 
the anti-Jewish policy and the author of all the anti-Jewish 
laws and administrative measures both under Ignatyev and 
Durnovo. Personally he had nothing against the Jews. 
This I know from my numerous talks with him on the 
subject of the Jewish question. He possessed enough in- 
telligence to understand that he was following an essen- 
tially wrong policy. But it pleased Grand Duke Sergey 
Alexandrovich and apparently His Majesty. Consequently, 
Plehve exerted himself to the utmost. 

The "pogroms," that peculiar feature of the Jewish ques- 
tion in Russia, raged with particular violence under Ignat- 
yev. Count Tolstoy at once put an end to them. Under 
Plehve the tide of pogroms again rose high. Especially 



STOLYPIN'S REACTIONARY REGIME 381 

brutal and revolting was the anti-Jewish outbreak at Kish- 
inev. I would not venture to say that Plehve personally 
and directly organized these pogroms, but he did not oppose 
these, in his opinion, counter-revolutionary outbreaks. 
When the Kishinev pogroms roused the public opinion of 
the whole civilized world, Plehve entered into negotiations 
with the Jewish leaders in Paris and also with the Russian 
rabbis. What he told them amounted to the following: 
"Make your people stop their revolutionary activity, and 
I will stop the pogroms and abolish the Jewish disabilities." 
"The situation is beyond our controF," was the reply. "The 
young element, crazed by hunger, is out of hand. But 
should a policy of relieving the oppression of the Jews be 
inaugurated, we believe that the unrest among the people 
will subside." Plehve appears to have heeded these words 
and assumed a more liberal attitude toward the Jews, but 
he was soon assassinated. 

I should like to say a word about the status of the Jews 
during my administration. It must be admitted that the 
Jews played a prominent part in leading the forces of 
unrest and in fanning the flame of discontent. Of course, 
this circumstance may be accounted for and, to a consider- 
able extent, justified by the intolerable legal status of the 
Jews and the pogroms which the Government not only toler- 
ated, but even organized itself. However that may be, the 
outstanding part of the Jews in the revolution is an indis- 
putable fact. 

Immediately after my .appointment, a Jewish deputation 
headed by Baron Ginzburg, a very respectable and wealthy 
man, called upon me. I received them. I remember, be- 
sides Ginzburg, the deputation included: Vinaver, a lawyer, 
later a prominent delegate of the First Imperial Duma from 
the city of St. Petersburg, Sliozberg and Kulisher, also legal 
lights, and Varshawski, son of the celebrated railroad 
builder. They came to plead the cause of full rights for 



382 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

their people, and they begged me to lay the matter before 
the Emperor. I stated frankly my views on the subject, 
emphasizing the point that the removal of the legal dis- 
abilities must proceed by degrees, for otherwise in some 
rural localities genuine, not artificial, pogroms might break 
out. In order that I might be able to raise the question of 
granting substantial rights to the Jews, I told them, and that 
I might advance the principle of equalizing the Jews with 
the rest of the population, before the law, it was necessary 
for the Jews to change their mode of behaviour. They must 
publicly declare, I said, to the Monarch and substantiate 
their declaration by actual deeds that they beg of His 
Majesty nothing else than to be treated on an equal footing 
with his other subjects. "Of late years," I told the delega- 
tion, "the Jews have come to the fore as leaders of various 
political parties and advocates of the most extreme political 
ideas. Now, it is not your business to teach us. Leave 
that to Russians by birth and civil status, and mind your 
own affairs. I assure you that your present conduct is 
fraught with harmful consequences both to you and your 
children." 

Baron Ginzburg declared that he completely shared my 
opinion. Sliozberg and Kulisher also agreed with me. The 
rest of the deputation, however, were not impressed by my 
arguments. Vinaver, for instance, declared that the moment 
had now come when the Russian people were going to obtain 
political freedom and full rights for all the citizens irrespec- 
tive of race or faith, and that it was the duty of the Jews to 
offer every possible support to those Russians who were 
fighting for the political emancipation of the country. Thus 
the conference came to nothing. 

When in the summer of 1907 I came to Frankfort-on- 
the-Main, the local Jewish leaders met me in the house of 
a wealthy citizen by the name of Askenazi, whom I had 
known for a long time. The chief representatives of the 



STOLYPIN'S REACTIONARY REGIME 383 

German Jewry, including the celebrated Dr. Nathan of 
Berlin, were present there. I reiterated to them substan- 
tially what I told the Jewish delegation in St. Petersburg. 
In this case Dr. Nathan played Vinaver's part. From 
Frankfort I went to Paris, where I had a conference with a 
number of prominent French Jews. I repeated to them the 
views which I had previously offered to their Russian and 
German co-religionists. The French Jews assured me that 
they agreed with me but that they were helpless to influence 
the Russian Jewry. At present, I think the Jews see clearly 
who was right, I or their tactless, to speak mildly, coun- 
sellors. 

When Stolypin assumed power, narrow nationalism was 
predominant in the Court circles. Accordingly, he decided 
that it would be advantageous for him to adopt a policy of 
persecuting all the Russian subjects of non-Russian stock, 
i.e., one-third of the entire population of the Empire (about 
60,000,000). New anti-Jewish restrictions followed. On 
September 16, 1908, His Majesty confirmed a bill drafted 
by the Council of Ministers "about the percentage of per- 
sons of Jewish faith admitted to educational institutions." 
This measure, being of a legislative character, should have 
passed through the Duma and the Imperial Council, but all 
that time Stolypin treated the Duma not as a legislative 
body but as a bureaucratic office subordinate to the Minister 
of the Interior. This act was the first shot in Stolypin's 
war against the Jews. 

It is noteworthy that during my premiership the question 
of the percentage of Jewish students was raised by the 
Minister of Education, Count Tolstoy, but his purpose was 
to remove the measures which restricted the educational 
opportunities of the Jews. Count Tolstoy laid before the 
Council of Ministers a bill for the abolition of these restric- 
tions. He argued from the premise, which to my mind is 
perfectly correct, that the most natural solution of the 



384 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Jewish question is the assimilation of the race through Rus- 
sian education. After a lengthy discussion the Council of 
Ministers decided in favour of the bill. But the Emperor 
refused to sanction it and returned it to the Council with a 
resolution that he would issue instructions on the subject 
at a later period. This case aptly illustrates the difference 
between the Jewish policy of my Cabinet and that of Stoly- 
pin's. It is true that at the beginning of his administration 
Stolypin was inclined to abolish some of the existing Jew- 
ish disabilities. He drafted a memorandum on the subject 
and submitted it to His Majesty, but the Emperor again 
postponed the matter. In 1907 the Council of Ministers 
under Stolypin's presidency took up the question of Jewish 
disabilities and adopted a resolution that it was necessary to 
enter upon the road of gradual abolition of the existing 
restrictions. The minutes of this session His Majesty re- 
fused to sign. 

A year later Stolypin reversed his policy and gradually 
there arose in Russia an intense movement against the Jews, 
which is both un-Christian and politically indefensible. At 
present Jew-baiting is at its worst, and I believe that the 
baiters themselves hardly know whither they are headed 
and what they intend to achieve by this ruthless persecution. 
One may not sympathize with the Jews, one may consider 
them an accursed nation. Nevertheless, they are human 
beings and Russian subjects, and there is no other method 
of treating them than that which is adopted in all the civil- 
ized countries, i.e., the method of gradually making them 
full-fledged members of the communities where they reside. 

In November, 1907, St. Petersburg was visited by Taft, 
then Secretary of War and now President of the United 
States. I remember having heard Roosevelt speak of him 
in friendly and commending terms. In fact, it was Roose- 
velt who has made him President in the hope that he would 
be faithful to him, but, as it often happens, the two men are 



STOLYPIN'S REACTIONARY REGIME 385 

now in opposite political camps, and right now the question 
is debated as to who of the two is to be elected President, 
should the Republican party gain the upper hand. On my 
part, I can say that, no doubt, Roosevelt is a much abler 
man than Taft. It is known that during the Spanish-Amer- 
ican War Colonel Roosevelt commanded a military detach- 
ment in Porto Rico, although neither Roosevelt nor 
Taft are military men. It is said that during his stay in the 
capital Taft had an audience with the Emperor, in the 
course of which he took up the question of the right of 
American citizens of Jewish faith to enter Russia. 

As early as April, 1905, Minister of the Interior Bulygin 
recommended that together with the introduction of new 
passport regulations all the restrictions upon the right of 
foreign Jews to enter the Empire should be removed. He 
pointed out that these restrictions served no purpose and 
merely complicated international relations. With the cre- 
ation of the Duma, many of the legislative projects filling 
the dossiers of the Imperial Council were returned to the 
respective Ministers that they might be laid before the 
Duma. Such was also the fate of Bulygin's recommenda- 
tion; it was returned to the Ministry of the Interior, and 
there it was permanently buried. 

I have told elsewhere how President Roosevelt handed 
me a letter to His Majesty, asking him to remove the re- 
strictions upon the right of American Jews to enter Russia. 
Five years passed, and the President's letter remained un- 
answered. I do not know whether any further negotiations 
took place, but the practice objectionable to the United 
States continued. As a result several months ago the Amer- 
ican Government lost its patience and denounced its old 
commercial treaty with Russia. Our jingoists are naturally 
thundering against America. There is no doubt, however^ 
that we ourselves have driven the United States Govern- 
ment to this step. 



3 86 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

On the strength of Article 87 Stolypin also enacted a 
highly important agrarian law, which can be understood 
only in the light of the history of the land policies of the 
Russian Government for the last fifty years. 

The men who emancipated the peasantry from serfdom 
favoured the peasant commune (obshchina), which meant 
the communal form of land ownership and tilling. This 
policy, which the Government adopted because it was easier 
for the Administration to deal with groups of peasants than 
with individuals, found support among the Slavophils and 
other antiquarians enamoured of the Russian past. It was 
declared that the obshchina was an ancient, peculiarly Rus- 
sian institution, that it was in fact the very essence of Rus- 
sian folk-life, and that to encroach upon it was to encroach 
upon the integrity of the Russian national spirit. 

Prejudices die hard, and so there are still some people 
who cling to this view of the obshchina. But it is becoming 
a matter of common knowledge that communal landowner- 
ship existed at one time or another practically everywhere, 
that it is merely a primitive phase in the socio-economic 
evolution of mankind. With the development of culture 
and statehood, the communistic forms give place to indi- 
vidualistic ones. In Russia the process has been artificially 
thwarted, with the result that both the people and the State 
have been greatly enfeebled. 

The obshchina found also enthusiastic supporters among 
the Russian converts to socialism. They proclaimed the 
muzhik to be a born, if unconscious, communist. Socialism, 
be it mentioned in passing, inasmuch as it is a movement 
toward collectivistic forms of economic life, is bound to fail, 
at least in the near future. Thus far socialism has suc- 
ceeded in pointing out, with great acumen and vigour, the 
foibles and failings of a social organization based on indi- 
vidualism, but it has failed to offer a rational and workable 
principle for the reconstruction of society along new lines. 



STOLYPIN'S REACTIONARY REGIME 387 

During the period of reaction which followed the assas- 
sination of Alexander II, the obshchlna continued to be the 
pet of the Minister of the Interior, but the civil rights of the 
peasants were considerably curtailed. The revolution found 
the peasants in a very lamentable state. The collective 
form of land ownership was still prevalent among them, 
and the burden of legal disabilities weighed down upon 
them heavily. Legally the peasant was not of age, so to 
speak. While no longer the landowner's serf, he was still 
the serf of the rural administration, and above all of the 
rural chief of police. 

When I became Minister of Finances my acquaintance 
with the peasant problem was very superficial. For a time 
I was inclined to accept the Slavophils' view of the obsh- 
china, for the teachings of those great idealists have always 
swayed my heart. Contact with reality and the influence 
of ex-Minister of Finances Bunge, who was a resolute enemy 
of the obshchina, increased my interest in the peasant prob- 
lem and gave a different direction to my views on the sub- 
ject. Before long, I perceived that the mediaeval obshchlna 
was a serious hindrance to the economic development of the 
country. In order to raise the productivity of peasant 
labour it was necessary, I found, besides removing the legal 
disabilities of the peasant class, to make the product of 
labour the full and assured property of the toiler and his 
heirs. No efficiency or initiative can be developed as long 
as the peasant knows that the land he tills may be given 
away to another member of the commune; that the fruit 
of his labour will be divided not on the basis of common 
law, but in conformity with custom, which is often the syn- 
onym of arbitrary disposal; that he is responsible for the 
taxes unpaid by his neighbours, and, finally, that he is at the 
mercy of the rural chief of police. 

The improvement of the legal and economic status of the 
peasant was one of my main preoccupations since the very 



3 88 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

beginning of the reign of Emperor Nicholas II. All my 
efforts to abolish the redemption payments during my ad- 
ministration of the Ministry of Finances proved unavailing 
("Why indulge the muzhik?"), and it was only after the 
act of October iyth, 1905, that I succeeded in enacting this 
measure. A considerable extension of the operations of 
the Peasant Bank was another step toward a betterment 
of the peasant's condition, which was made by my Cabinet. 
We did not think it advisable to go further without placing 
the matter before the newly created legislative body, which 
was soon to convene. We also established a chain of local 
committees for the study of agrarian conditions and we elab- 
orated a program of peasant reforms to be submitted to the 
Duma. Individual land ownership and full legal rights for 
the peasant class were the two basic principles of that pro- 
gram. The transition from communal to individual land 
ownership was to be gradual and free from all compulsion. 
Stolypin's Cabinet and the third Duma took advantage 
of the legislative plan which we had laid, but in doing so 
they distorted them to such an extent that the land reform 
which is now being carried out may lead to grave revolu- 
tionary complications. Like myself, Stolypin intended to 
develop a class of small private landowners from among the 
peasants, but with his characteristic faith in the efficacy of 
coercion he inaugurated a policy of forcefully disrupting 
the time-hallowed institution of the obshchina. Besides, 
while forcing upon the peasant individual land ownership, 
the new law (Act of November 9, 1906) failed to grant 
him full civic rights, notably the right of inheritance. The 
reform is being carried out hastily and ill-advisedly, without 
paying due attention to the secondary problems raised by 
it, as if it were a mere police measure and not an act of 
overwhelming national importance. Its only outcome will 
be a chaotic condition in the village and rapid proletariza- 
tion of the peasant masses. 



STOLYPIN'S REACTIONARY REGIME 389 

By his arbitrary, deceitful and brutal actions Stolypin 
aroused against himself a considerable part of the popula- 
tion. No other statesman has ever succeeded in drawing 
upon himself the enmity of so many men and women. For 
instance, all the non-Russian national groups of the Empire 
were among his enemies. Furthermore, Stolypin lost the 
respect of all decent people. Through his double dealing 
he estranged the very Black Hundred leaders who were his 
main support during the first years of his premiership. 
Under these circumstances it was easy enough to foresee 
that he would come to grief. It was clear to me that since 
he stubbornly clung to his post, he would perish at it. To 
what extent my presentiment was definite may be seen from 
the following fact. When Dillon, the well-known English 
journalist, visited me at Biarritz and inquired about con- 
ditions in Russia, my reply was to the effect that some fatal 
catastrophe was bound to happen to Stolypin and produce a 
general change in the political situation. 

My foreboding came true. On September i, 1911, Stoly- 
pin was fatally wounded. The attempt took place at Kiev 
during a solemn theatrical performance attended by the 
Emperor, his daughters, all the Cabinet Ministers and a 
great many members of the high aristocracy. The shoot- 
ing was done by a revolutionary terrorist who was at the 
same time a Secret Service agent. Several days later Stoly- 
pin died. The Emperor bestowed a number of favours 
upon the widow, while the jingoist papers mourned Stoly- 
pin' s death as Russia's great loss, and opened subscription 
funds for the construction of a national chain of memorial 
statutes. Of course, this artificial agitation soon subsided 
and gave place to a sober estimate of the late Minister's 
historical role. 

Some of Stolypin's friends blamed his death on the head 
of the Secret Service. They pointed out that the Director 
of the Police Department and the Chief of Gendarmes 



39 o THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

committed a number of unpardonable blunders. I agree 
that our police force, especially the Secret Service, was com- 
pletely disorganized and demoralized under Stolypin. But, 
here again, Stolypin was at fault. As Minister of the 
Interior he appointed all the more important functionaries 
of the Police Department and was in fact its supreme head. 
The inevitable conclusion is that he fell a victim to his own 
mismanagement. 

The murder of a human being is in itself a revolting act, 
but in considering Stolypin's assassination one should re- 
member that hundreds of men and women were executed, 
or, rather murdered by Stolypin's Government for no reason 
whatsoever. Stolypin perished as many statesmen did who 
used the power vested in them, not for the benefit of the 
State and the people, but for purposes of self-aggrandize- 
ment. The great Napoleon said: "A statesman has his 
heart in his head." Unfortunately, Stolypin's heart was 
neither in his head nor in his breast. He possessed both 
temperament and courage, but he lacked moral stamina. As 
a result he demoralized and debased all the elements of 
Russian political life with which he came in contact. 

From the standpoint of His Majesty, Stolypin may be 
said to have died in time. Several weeks before his assas- 
sination I was at that time at Biarritz I received a re- 
markable letter, signed by a Sazonov, whom I had known 
for a number of years. The career of this man is worth 
mention. In his youth Sazonov is said to have been intimate 
with Zhelyabov, the assassin of Alexander II. At one time 
he wrote for the radical press, but when the revolution 
came, he found it profitable to join the extreme reaction- 
aries. He joined hands with Professor Migulin and later 
was befriended by such influential clergymen as Archbishop 
Hermogenes, Father Iliodor and Staretz [a saintly man] 
Rasputin. He became especially intimate with the latter. 
When visiting St. Petersburg, Rasputin stayed with Sazo- 



STOLYPIN'S REACTIONARY REGIME 391 

nov, who gradually assumed the role of a circus side-show 
manager demonstrating an outlandish prodigy to an avid 
public. High-born ladies who were among Rasputin's clien- 
tele would come to see him at Sazonov's house. Naturally 
enough, Sazonov became a personage of importance him- 
self, for Rasputin wielded, and probably still wields, an 
enormous influence at the Court. Sazonov succeeded in 
obtaining from the Minister of Finance, Kokovtzev, direct 
and indirect subsidies for his weekly, The Economist. Then 
Kokovtzev granted to Sazonov and Professor Migulin a 
license to open a banking institution, which license the 
worthy pair sold for some 250,000 rubles. With a part of 
this sum, to which the directors of the bank, at Kokovtzev's 
suggestion, added 100,000 rubles, Sazonov founded a news- 
paper, where blackmailing by means of the printed word 
was practised under the guise of a fairly progressive tend- 
ency. 

In his letter Sazonov informed me that Stolypin was done 
for and that the Emperor had formed a firm resolution to 
get rid of him immediately after the Kiev solemnities. His 
Majesty, Sazonov wrote, had chosen as Minister of the 
Interior, Khvostov, Governor of the Nizhni-Novgorod 
province. Sazonov further wrote that he and Rasputin 
were now going to Nizhni for a final conference with Khvos- 
tov. They were quite certain that he would be an admir- 
able Minister of the Interior, but they had some doubts 
as to whether, on account of his youth, Khvostov would be 
a fitting substitute for Stolypin in his capacity of President 
of the Council of Ministers. Therefore, Sazonov wondered 
whether I would not be willing to accept the post of Presi- 
dent of the Council in order to lend prestige to the new 
Cabinet. 

Khvostov, I may remark, is one of the worst specimens 
of officialdom as it existed under Stolypin. In his contempt 
for the law he actually outdid all the other provincial gov- 



392 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

ernors. Shortly before, he had submitted to His Majesty 
a memorandum in which he asserted that Russia was in a 
state of latent unrest, that the revolution had been driven 
underground by Stolypin and might break out again, should 
the government fail to take proper measures. On his part 
he suggested that all suspects should be killed off in one way 
or another. 

My answer to Sazonov was to the effect that I was in 
receipt of his letter and that their proposal made me wonder 
whether they themselves were out of their minds or whether 
they imagined me stark mad. 

As a matter of fact, Stolypin was succeeded by Kokov- 
tzev, while the portfolio of the Ministry of the Interior 
was given to Makarov. In late years Kokovtzev had been 
in opposition to Stolypin and so it was expected that he 
would inaugurate a liberal policy. This expectation was not 
realized. When Kokovtzev made his first appearance be- 
fore the Duma, he delivered a long speech. Kokovtzev 
speaks well and likes to make long speeches, so that the 
Moscow merchants have dubbed him the "Gramophone". 
The substance of his speech was as follows : Policies do not 
change with Ministers, they are dictated from above; so 
long as he, Kokovtzev, was Minister of Finance he could 
disagree with the President of the Council, but now that he 
had become President himself he could follow no other 
policy than that of the late Stolypin. 

Generally speaking, Stolypin's policy was to nullify the 
attempts to carry out the promises of the constitutional 
Manifesto, which were made under my administration. The 
Manifesto promised to grant the population the unshakable 
foundations of civic liberty, such as inviolability of person 
and freedom of conscience, of word, of assemblage, and of 
union. Our laws, as they were created by Emperor Alex- 
ander II, were in harmony with the legal consciousness 
prevalent among the civilized nations of the nineteenth 



STOLYPIN'S REACTIONARY REGIME 393 

century. Alexander III, under the influence of the assas- 
sination of his father, somewhat impaired them, chiefly by 
a set of temporary regulations, passed by the Committee 
of Ministers, including the "exceptional status" act, which 
practically outlaws the region where it is declared and gives 
it over to the tender mercies of the Administration or of 
the military authorities. The creation of two independent 
legislative institutions, the Duma and the Imperial Council, 
made it possible to hope that the flaws in our legislation 
would be eliminated and these two bodies would stand watch 
over the impartial and strict execution of the existing laws. 
The hope would not have been in vain, were it not for the 
fact that, on one hand, the Duma, politically speaking, lost 
its head and imagined that it was possible to introduce a 
democratic republic in Russia, and, and on the other, that 
the country's destiny was entrusted to a man like Stolypin. 

The "exceptional status" regulations were a temporary 
law. Their terms having expired in 1906, Stolypin, by 
means of an Imperial decree, extended them for another 
three years, and the Duma, the Third Duma, with a Govern- 
ment-picked membership, feigned not to have noticed the 
Government's lawless act. At present, the Administration 
declares "exceptional status" freely and at its own discre- 
tion. Furthermore, by arbitrary interpretation Stolypin 
rendered them more comprehensive than they were intended 
to be by their author (Plehve) and those who practised 
them for thirty years before Stolypin's advent to power. 
At present, we have reached a point when, without any 
semblance of legality, the police invades your home, searches 
it until there is not a whole piece of furniture left, seizes 
all the papers in which the gendarmes may evince an inter- 
est, arrests you for no earthly reason and even exiles you to 
some distant corner of our own country or to foreign lands. 

The devotion of the present Government to the principle 
5)f the inviolability of person is aptly illustrated by the 



394 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

extent to which perlustration of private correspondence has 
grown under Stolypin. I remember, soon after my appoint- 
ment to the office of President of the Council of Ministers, 
a functionary came to see me and in the name of the Minister 
of the Interior inquired whether I had any instruction to 
give regarding the perlustrated mail which was to be sent 
to me. Although I refused to give any instructions on the 
subject, Durnovo persisted in sending me daily a dossier 
with perlustrated mail. I looked these letters over, but, I 
confess, throughout the period of my Administration I did 
not come upon a single letter which presented any interest 
from the standpoint of the State or the police. 

Some letters contained passages referring to me in abu- 
sive terms: I remember distinctly one curious case. Both 
my family and myself were on very good terms with Count 
S. D. Sheremetyev, now a member of the Imperial Council. 
He had become my ardent admirer after the conclusion of 
the Portsmouth treaty and gave vent to his enthusiasm in 
long epistles addressed to my wife. Now in the perlus- 
trated mail which was submitted to me I repeatedly came 
upon letters with very uncomplimentary to use a mild term 
opinions about me, which were signed by Count Shere- 
metyev. 

I believe that perlustration of private correspondence is 
essentially a harmful practice. It lays before the Adminis- 
tration intimate and purely confidential matters, thus giv- 
ing the Minister of the Interior a means for settling per- 
sonal accounts. I am certain that if Stolypin had not been 
given to the study of perlustrated mail he would have acted 
more properly with regard to many people, and would have 
had fewer enemies. 

Speaking of Stolypin and his weakness for the practice 
of perlustration I recall a characteristic fact. In connection 
with a discussion of the Post Office in the Imperial Duma, 
the subject of perlustration of mail was touched upon. A 



STOLYPIN'S REACTIONARY REGIME 395 

representative of the Ministry of the Interior declared that 
perlustration was a myth, and that it was no longer prac- 
tised. This was asserted at the time when perlustration was 
practised with unprecedented diligence. . . . 

It may be observed in passing that the practice is still in 
existence. Only the other day I spoke about this matter to 
Kokovtsev and he told me frankly that he received daily 
a package of perlustrated letters. He added indignantly 
that this very day he happened upon an unfavourable report 
about himself, given by the Director of Agriculture, Krivo- 
shein. In order to nonplus Krivoshein he called him up, he 
said, on the telephone and amicably advised him to be more 
careful in his correspondence. 

In this connection I recall another trait characteristic of 
Stolypin. It often happens that Cabinet Ministers in a 
Parliament are pushed to the wall and are forced to give 
a definite answer to an interpellation. If for some reason 
or other the Minister is unable to tell the truth, he evades 
the question, but as a rule, does not tell a lie with noble 
gestures. As for Stolypin, he followed another rule. He 
told an outright lie in a most convincing manner. Here is 
an example : 

When I became President of the Council I founded a 
Government newspaper under the title The Russian State 
(Russkoye Gosudarstvo] . I was compelled to do it because 
the press had become revolutionized and it was necessary 
for the Government to have an organ for the purpose of 
issuing statements to the public, and refuting the fantastic 
stories with which the newspapers were overflowing. Stoly- 
pin found that The Russian State was unfit to exert a proper 
influence upon the public. He closed the newspaper down 
and took over the paper called Russia, which had already 
been in existence, in the belief that this newspaper would be 
more successful in moulding public opinion. But of course 
this naive stratagem failed of its purpose and Russia knew 



396 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

very well that Russia was a Government organ, Govern* 
ment-subsidized and Government-directed. 

When the Duma attempted to ascertain what Russia cost 
the country, Stolypin had the cheek to send his associate 
Kryzhanovsky with orders to declare before the Duma that 
the newspaper Russia was a private publication. Ever since 
then Russia, which is still in existence and which of course 
does not have the slightest effect upon public opinion, is 
usually referred to in the papers, as "a private publication." 

The constitutional Manifesto promised to grant the 
people freedom of the press. In pursuance of the Manifesto 
temporary regulations about the press were issued on No- 
vember 14, 1905, in the form of an Imperial decree. It con- 
tained the following passage: 

Before promulgating a general law regulating the functioning of 
the press, we have deemed it advisable to issue the temporary regula- 
tions regarding periodical publications, which were elaborated by the 
Council of Ministers on the basis of the data furnished by Kobeko 
and examined by the Imperial Council. These regulations do away 
with the control of the Administration over the periodical press and 
subject the criminal deeds committed by means of the printed word 
to the jurisdiction of the Courts of the land. 

The application of these rules was materially obstructed 
by the failure of many newly established periodical publi- 
cations to comply with the demands of the law. For this 
reason a set of additional regulations were published in 
March of the following year. Upon the whole, these new 
regulations did not violate the principles of freedom of 
the press and the principle of responsibility to the Courts 
for crimes committed through the printed word. Several 
days after my withdrawal from the post of President of 
the Council of Ministers, there were issued regulations 
relating to the non-periodical press. 

Seven years have passed since the publication of the 
constitutional Manifesto and no definite law regarding the 



STOLYPIN'S REACTIONARY REGIME 397 

press had as yet been enacted. The press is still being regu- 
lated by the temporary rules issued in 1905. The impor- 
tant aspect of the situation is that these regulations were 
infringed upon by Stolypin, with the connivance of the 
Third Duma. While the first two Dumas were function- 
ing, Stolypin did not dare to violate the law, but no sooner 
was the Second Duma dissolved than there began a general 
slaughter of the organs of the periodical press. 

Stolypin found that the press laws issued during my 
Administration were far too liberal. Then Kokovtsev, sup- 
ported by Kaufman, proposed that a new set of regulations 
should be elaborated and laid before the Duma. Stolypin, 
however, opposed this plan. He preferred to resort to the 
all-powerful "Exceptional Status" which empowered Gov- 
ernors to fine newspapers at their discretion, and, instead 
of passing new laws, to "interpret" existing regulations so 
as to render them more stringent. To do this was all the 
easier, since, owing to Shcheglovitov's efforts, the Courts 
had lost their independence. Although the other members of 
the Cabinet protested against such an unprecedented and in 
fact illegal policy Stolypin did not hesitate to carry out his 
intentions. As a result, the press is at present again at the 
mercy of the arbitrary power of the Administration. If a 
newspaper article happens to displease the authorities, the 
minister telephones to the Governor-General, or the Man- 
ager of his office, and instructs him to fine the guilty pub- 
lication, which instruction is immediately carried out. Fur- 
thermore, if fining appears to be too mild a measure, the 
Governor-General, on the strength of the "Exceptional 
Status" puts the editor in prison for a number of 
months. . . . 

A courtier, I forget his name, told me that once in speak- 
ing of Kobeko, the author of the temporary press regula- 
tions, His Majesty said: "I will never forgive him the 
general spirit of his press' laws." 



398 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Under my Administration, the Council of Ministers 
drafted an elaborate set of laws regulating the right of 
union and assemblage. The fate of these laws is similar to 
that of the press regulations. Under Stolypin, especially 
after the coup d'etat of June 3rd, these regulations were 
violated with even more effrontery than the press regula- 
tions. The law existed on paper only and failed to affect 
the practices of the Government. The Administration did 
what it pleased. This was indeed Stolypin's motto, and its 
demoralizing effect was so thorough-going that it will take 
the efforts of many years to purify the blood vessels of the 
Russian body politic. 

Finally, as regards the freedom of conscience, the situ- 
ation remains unchanged. Nothing has been added to the 
acts of December 4, 1905, and April 17, 1905, which 
latter decree affected only the status of the Old Believer. 
As for the promise to remove the other restrictions and 
discriminations based on religion, it has not been fulfilled. 
In fact, Stolypin made every effort to restrict the privileges 
granted by the above mentioned two decrees. It must be 
conceded that as regards the laws relating to religious free- 
dom, the Third Duma acted commendably, but the bills 
were held up in the Imperial Council or else were so muti- 
lated that they lost all value. 

Thus my Cabinet upon the whole carried out that most 
vital article of the constitutional Manifesto which promised 
to grant civic liberty to the population. The legislative 
bodies were given control over the activity of the Adminis- 
tration. Laws were issued regulating the freedom of the 
press, union and assemblage. Since the opening of the 
Duma and of the new Imperial Council, the Exceptional 
Status seemingly could no longer be declared without the 
sanction of the legislative bodies. Finally, the principles of 
religious tolerance were legally established. Nevertheless 
at this writing, seven years after the act of October 17, 



399 

1905, civic liberty is still an unattained ideal. In fact, we 
enjoy now a lesser measure of civic liberty than that which 
existed prior to the publication of the constitutional Mani- 
festo, and in the course of the past fifty years the arbitrary 
power of the administration has never been as unrestrained 
as it is now. 

Several circumstances account for this state of affairs. 
On one hand, it is necessary to take into consideration the 
striking political tactlessness and nearsightedness not alone 
of our extreme revolutionaries, but also of nearly all the 
liberal parties. In those revolutionary days they were rav- 
ing mad and instead of dealing with realities, they lost their 
senses and repudiated all the legislative acts of the Govern- 
ment as too conservative. On the other hand, the momen- 
tous upheaval of the vast Empire frightened many people. 
As a result, reaction took the upper hand. This movement 
found support among the Court circles. In its extreme 
wing, it was as insane as the extreme manifestations of the 
revolutionary movement. Then came Stolypin's Administra- 
tion and with it the rule of men who had at heart nothing 
but their personal careers and to whom it did not matter 
whether Russia was a constitutional or an autocratic mon- 
archy. Their loyalty to the principles of October I7th was 
lip service. In reality, they were for the arbitrary rule of 
the police. 

What will be the outcome of it all? It is my firm belief 
that in the end Russia will have a constitutional regime and, 
as in other civilized States, the principles of civic freedom 
will take root in our country. The spirit of October I7th 
cannot be destroyed either by political stratagems or mili- 
tary force. The only problem is how the change will take 
place: whether it will come as a consummation of peaceful 
effort or out of torrents of blood. As a sincere monarchist, 
as a loyal servant of the reigning House of the Romanovs, 



400 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

as a firm and devoted collaborator of the Emperor Nicholas 
II, and as a man profoundly attached to the Emperor and 
full of compassion for him, I pray to God that the change 
may come about bloodlessly and peacefully. 



MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE KAISER 

IT was at Ems that for the first time I caught a glimpse 
of the man who was destined to become the present ruler of 
Germany. This was shortly before the death of his grand- 
father, William I, surnamed the Great. The young prince 
had been taken to Ems by the old Emperor, who used to go 
to that famous watering place periodically for his health. 
It was Emperor William's last trip to Ems. I, too, hap- 
pened to be there for the sake of my health. The royal 
visitor stopped at the Kurhaus and, as was his wont, worked 
in his study by a large window which faced the square in 
front of the Kurhaus, so that everyone could see him at 
work. His grandson invariably stood by his armchair and, 
to my great surprise, acted as the Emperor's office boy. 
With an air of profound respect the young prince sealed and 
opened packages, sharpened his grandfather's pencils, 
handed him pens, and made himself useful in other small 
ways. 

I caught another glimpse of the future German Emperor 
at the time when I served as Director of the South-Western 
Railroads, in the early days of the reign of Alexander 
III. One fine day, I recollect, His Majesty arrived at a 
small railway station situated between Brest-Litovsk and 
Bielostok. He was on his way to a military camp near 
Brest where he was to review a series of manoeuvres. Next 
morning Adjutant General Cherevin, chief of the Emperor's 
bodyguard, approached me and inquired how long it would 
take to bring one of His Majesty's uniforms from St. 

401 



402 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Petersburg. The old German Emperor, the general ex- 
plained, had heard that Alexander III would be present at 
the Brest manoeuvres and dispatched his grandson, the 
present Kaiser, to greet him. His Majesty, General Chere- 
vin continued, apparently did not relish the idea of having 
the youthful Hohenzollern about him at the manoeuvres 
and had decided to meet him at Brest at the end of them. 
It was for this meeting that His Majesty needed his Prus- 
sian uniform, which was at St. Petersburg. I replied that 
special locomotives used in relays would cover the distance 
in forty-eight hours. The necessary orders were given, the 
uniform arrived in due time, and shortly afterwards His 
Majesty, accompanied by the Empress, left the castle close 
to the station, where he had been staying, and proceeded 
to Brest. 

Naturally, I, too, was on board the Imperial train and the 
details of His Majesty's meeting with Prince William were 
engraved upon my memory. Our train rode into the Brest 
station several minutes before the arrival of the Warsaw 
train which carried the German prince. Emperor Alexander 
III alighted and paced the platform in front of his guard 
of honour. He wore his Prussian uniform underneath a 
Russian cloak. When Prince William's train drew up to 
the spot where His Majesty stood, he doffed his cloak and 
handed it over to his Cossack attendant who kept close to 
him. His Majesty greeted the grandson of William the 
Great and went through the ceremony of introducing him 
to the Imperial retinue and reviewing the guard of honour. 
All the while William behaved like His Majesty's aide-de- 
camp. The ceremony over, the Emperor turned to his Cos- 
sack, who had in the meantime withdrawn into the back- 
ground, and said loudly: "My cloak!" William, who 
understood Russian to a certain extent, literally ran over 
to the Cossack, seized the cloak, and brought it to the Em- 
peror and helped him into it. He was apparently awed by 



MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE KAISER 403 

the Russian Czar. The behaviour of the prince greatly 
surprised me, for at the Russian court such manners were 
unheard of. Afterwards when I learned more about Wil- 
liam's character, I perceived that his obsequiousness in this 
case was in complete harmony with his convictions. He 
holds the view that an emperor is a superman. At present, 
Prince Henry, his brother, often kisses his hand at leave- 
taking in everybody's presence, without embarassing him. 
He accepts this sign of respect as his due. . . . 

It is noteworthy that when William became Emperor 
of Germany (his father, as is known, died from a cancer 
in his throat after a few months' reign) the awe with which 
Alexander III inspired him at the time when he was young 
did not altogether vanish. I recall having heard Emperor 
William say that he had been deeply impressed by the 
personality of that great Russian Czar. "Yes," he told me 
on one occasion, "he was truly an autocrat and an emperor." 

Indirectly I came in contact with Emperor William II in 
the course of our conflict with Germany which resulted in 
the conclusion of the first Russo-German commercial treaty, 
in the year 1894. Briefly stated, the history of that clash 
is as follows: With a view to exploiting us economically, 
the German Government imposed prohibitive duties on 
goods imported from our country, especially raw materials, 
thus considerably affecting our agricultural industry. We 
retaliated by raising our duties on German exports. Our 
resistance, for which I am partly responsible, was so reso- 
lute and vigorous, that, after a veritable tariff war waged 
by the two countries, Germany had to surrender its scheme 
of encroachment and agree to a commercial treaty which 
was to a certain extent advantageous to us. 

Emperor William's role in this matter was, upon the 
whole, conciliatory, especially since it became clear that we 
would not yield. It was with his support that Count Cap- 
rivi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, succeeded in putting the 



404 THE iMEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

treaty through the Reichstag, in the face of stout opposi- 
tion on the part of the large landowners and Junkers, whose 
interests were considerably prejudiced by the new tariffs. 

Upon the signing of the treaty I had an audience with 
Emperor Alexander. In the course of it I called His 
Majesty's attention to the fact that Emperor William was 
instrumental in bringing about the ratification of the treaty 
by the Reichstag, and that he was, therefore, entitled to our 
gratitude. I had been informed, I said, that Emperor 
William was anxious to get the uniform of a Russian ad- 
miral and I would be glad, I added, if that distinction were 
bestowed upon him. I may say here, in passing, that Wil- 
liam has a veritable passion for all manner of showy uni- 
forms, especially military and naval. His Majesty smiled 
at my words, said he would gratify the German Emperor's 
ambition at the first opportunity, and asked me to remind 
him of the matter. Emperor Alexander died before such 
an opportunity presented itself, and it fell to his son to 
fulfill the promise. I found it necessary to report the 
matter to Emperor Nicholas, and at his first meeting with 
the German Emperor he presented the latter with the 
longed-for uniform. 

In this connection I recall a similar incident which took 
place at the time when I held the office of President of the 
Committee of Ministers. It was again a case of craving 
for a Russian uniform, on the part of the German Emperor. 
This time the object of his ardent desire, I was told, was 
the uniform of an Adjutant General. I was at the time in 
disfavour with Emperor Nicholas, and so I could do nothing 
to satisfy the Kaiser's desire. I understand that he tried 
to work through Grand Duke Michael, but I do not know 
whether his efforts were crowned with success. 

It may be properly mentioned here that in the early 
years of his reign Emperor Nicholas was by no means fond 
of the German Kaiser. In this respect he followed in the 



MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE KAISER 405 

footsteps of his august father, who actually disliked the 
German ruler, with his weakness for stage effects and spec- 
tacular splurges. Emperor Nicholas' antipathy to William 
was further complicated by a feeling of personal rivalry. 
His Majesty could not help feeling that in the opinion of 
Russia and of the world the German ruler stood higher 
than himself. Even in appearance William was more of an 
emperor than he, Nicholas. Given His Majesty's some- 
what excessive self-esteem, this could not but be a thorn in 
his flesh. After the first meeting of the two Emperors, I 
recall, there appeared picture postal cards which repre- 
sented the two rulers in a friendly pose. William's arm 
rested on his Majesty's shoulder as if embracing him, and 
as Emperor Nicholas barely reached up to William's shoul- 
der, the latter's arm stretched slightly downward. The 
cards were immediately confiscated. 

Another circumstance which fed His Majesty's antipathy 
to Emperor William was the latter's attitude toward His 
Majesty's brother-in-law, the Duke of Darmstadt, and also 
toward the Empress. The Kaiser actually snubbed the 
Duke, and he treated Her Majesty not as the Empress of 
all the Russias, but as a petty German princess. In general, 
Emperor William does not stand on ceremony with his 
German relations. It is said that recently at the manoeu- 
vres in the vicinity of Frankfort, he turned to the Duke of 
Darmstadt who happened to be nearby and remarked: 
"You are very anxious, I know, to get the Black Eagle of 
the first order. I will give it to you at once if you answer 
the following question : 'When a Hussar mounts his horse, 
which foot goes into the stirrup first?' ' 

In recent years, however, his attitude toward our Em- 
press and her brother has undergone a substantial change, 
for reasons which I shall presently point out. Some time 
before the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, the Ger- 
man Chancellor Biilow and Germany's Ambassador to St. 



4 o6 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Petersburg complained to me that Emperor Nicholas was 
not civil enough toward their Monarch, that he was slow 
in answering Emperor William's letters, that he did not 
requite the Kaiser's attentions, etc., which circumstances 
unfavourably affected the relations between the two coun- 
tries. I pointed out to them that it was Emperor William 
who was largely responsible for this state of affairs. Let 
him, I said, show some attention to the Empress and her 
brother, and the relations between the two Emperors will be 
automatically improved. The German Emperor followed 
my advice and had no difficulty in winning the hearts of 
both Empress Alexandra and the Duke of Darmstadt. 
This circumstance, in its turn, affected His Majesty's atti- 
tude toward Emperor William, and an intimate correspond- 
ence sprang up between them. [Now famous as the "Willy- 
Nicky" letters. EDITOR.] 

At the beginning of their personal relations, the German 
ruler assumed a patronizing, mentor-like attitude toward 
our Emperor. Before long he perceived, however, that this 
was the surest way of arousing Nicholas' animosity. It was- 
then that he abruptly faced about and began to treat Em- 
peror Nicholas as his superior. His Majesty, it must be 
noted, hardly tolerates people whom he considers superior 
to himself either intellectually or morally. He is at ease 
only when dealing with men who are either actually his 
inferiors or whom he considers as such, or finally, those 
who, knowing His Majesty's weakness, find it expedient to 
feign inferiority. Count Lamsdorff, our Minister of For- 
eign Affairs, repeatedly assured me that ever since the be- 
ginning of the intimate correspondence between the two 
emperors, the Kaiser frequently had endeavoured to do an 
ill turn to his correspondent and to set him at variance with 
other powers, especially France, and that he, Lamsdorff, 
had to be constantly on the lookout. If the secret docu- 
ments in his possession were ever published, the Count 



MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE KAISER 407 

added, the world would be astonished. It was for this 
reason, perhaps, that Emperor William detested our Min- 
ister of Foreign Affairs. 

His Majesty has exchanged a number of official and semi- 
official visits with Emperor William. One of the first visits 
paid by the German ruler to our Emperor was occasioned 
by the latter's coronation. Emperor William, accompanied 
by the Empress, arrived in Peterhof on July 26th (Russian 
style), 1897, and remained there till the 3Oth. The arrival 
was, of course, marked by an official dinner in grand style, 
given in honour of the royal guests. As soon as I reached 
Peterhof I was among those invited one of the Kaiser's 
attendants informed me that the Emperor wished to make 
my acquaintance before the dinner and asked me to come 
to his apartment. 

It was on that July afternoon, in one of the gorgeous 
rooms of the Great Palace, that I saw for the first time the 
German Emperor at close quarters. I found him not fully 
attired, but ready with a little speech which he addressed 
to me after we went through the ceremony of greeting each 
other. 

The substance of his speech was that he knew me 
to be a great and wise statesman and that, in recognition 
of my worth, he had decided to bestow upon me the order 
of the Black Eagle. Thereupon he handed me the decora- 
tion, adding that as a rule this mark of distinction was 
given only to persons of royal blood and to Ministers of 
Foreign Affairs. I hardly need say that I was greatly 
flattered. 

The next day I met the Kaiser again at a luncheon given 
in his honour at the German Embassy in St. Petersburg. 
The invitation came, I was told, at His Majesty's express 
wish. The function was attended exclusively by diplomats, 
both German and Russian. When the luncheon was over 
and we retired to the drawing-room, the Emperor became 



4 o8 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

very amiable toward everybody and behaved like a fop, 
gesticulating with his arms and legs, in a fashion not at 
all befitting an Emperor. After a while the Emperor drew 
me into the Ambassador's study, where we remained alone. 

He opened the conversation by calling my attention to the 
dangers which were threatening Europe from beyond the 
seas. America, he said, is growing rich at Europe's expense, 
and it is necessary to build a high tariff wall around Europe 
so as to make it impossible for America to flood us with its 
products. The European countries must unite to shut out 
the transatlantic competitor, who is growing very danger- 
ous, especially as regards agriculture, and thus to arrest the 
development of the United States of America. I took the 
liberty then of observing to the Emperor that the interests 
of continental Europe were not identical with those of 
Great Britain and that, therefore, she would have to be 
excluded from the contemplated European union. His 
Majesty retorted that England constituted no danger for 
the agriculture of Europe and that she could not be ex- 
cluded, for the reason that it was his intention to establish 
the best of relations with her. The tariff wall should be 
erected against America alone, he reiterated. 

Thereupon I pointed out that, whether or not England 
was included, an economic war against America was not 
practicable, because many European countries were not 
likely to agree to it. Speaking for Russia, I went on saying 
that we would be loath to embrace His Majesty's viewpoint, 
for the reason that ever since the American Revolutionary 
War we had been on the best of terms with the United 
States of America and that we did not intend to quarrel 
with that country. 

Having thus dismissed the Kaiser's scheme, I proceeded 
to expound my own views on the general political situation, 
as I saw it at the time and as I still see it. After referring 
to the unbreakable tie which exists between political prestige 



MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE KAISER 409 

and economic power, I declared to His Majesty that, among 
the countries of the world, Europe seemed to me like a 
decrepit old woman. Unless a radical change is brought 
about, I went on, Europe will soon have to yield her domi- 
nating place in the world to the mighty empires which are 
rising beyond the seas. The time is not far off, I said, when 
this continent will be treated with that condescending re- 
spect which well-mannered people accord to venerable old 
age, and before the next few centuries are past, the great- 
ness of Europe will be to the inhabitants of our planet what 
the grandeur of Rome, the glory of Greece, and the might 
of Carthage are to us. 

The German Emperor was deeply impressed by my words 
and inquired how I proposed to deal with the disastrous 
situation I envisaged. "Your Majesty," I said, "picture a 
Europe which does not waste most of its blood and treasure 
on competition between individual countries, which does not 
maintain millions of soldiers for internecine wars, which is 
not an armed camp with each country pitted against its 
neighbour, a Europe which is, in brief, one body politic, 
one large empire. Then, of course, we would be richer, and 
more vigorous, and more cultured, and Europe, instead of 
withering under the -burden of strife, would become truly 
the mistress of the world. To achieve this ideal we must 
seek to create a solid union of Russia, Germany and France. 
Once these countries are firmly united, all the other States 
of the European continent will, no doubt, join the central 
alliance and thus form an all-embracing continental con- 
federation, which will free Europe from the burden of 
internecine competition and establish its domination over 
the world for many years to come." 

His Majesty listened to my remarks with great interest 
and graciously bade me farewell, saying that my views were 
original and interesting. Emperor Nicholas, in the course 
of my next audience with him, handed me a brief note the 



4 io THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

German Kaiser had given him on leaving Peterhof. The 
note contained the statement of his opinion regarding the 
necessity of waging an economic war against the United 
States of America, which the German Emperor had ex- 
pounded to me. I did not conceal from His Majesty that 
I had discussed the subject with the German Monarch, and 
I also stated my own ideas on the subject. His Majesty 
assured me that he shared my view and asked me to write 
a reply to the note from my standpoint, which I did in the 
form of an unsigned memorandum. This, His Majesty 
said, he would send to Emperor William, together with a 
personal letter. It is noteworthy that when Theodore 
Roosevelt was elected President, Emperor William began 
to flirt with him, and the two rulers made a great show of 
their sudden friendship. 

During the German Emperor's stay at Peterhof there 
occurred an incident which was destined to have the most 
far-reaching effects upon the course of Russian history. It 
was afterwards related to me by Grand Duke Alexey Alex- 
androvich. Once when the two emperors were driving 
alone out in the country, so our Emperor told the Grand 
Duke, the German Kaiser asked his host whether Russia 
had any use for the Chinese port of Kiao-Chow. He added 
that he would like to occupy that port and use it as a base 
for German shipping, but that he did not wish to take the 
step without his, Nicholas's, consent. His Majesty did not 
tell the Grand Duke whether or not he actually gave his 
consent to the occupation of Kiao-Chow. What he did say 
was that his guest had placed him in an awkward position 
and the whole incident was extremely distasteful to him. 
I have but little doubt that His Majesty, who is exceedingly 
well-mannered, found it impossible to refuse his guest's re- 
quest point-blank and that the latter interpreted this atti- 
tude as indirect approval and implied consent. 

Shortly afterwards German warships entered the harbour 



MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE KAISER 411 

of Kiao-Chow. I noticed, not without amazement, that the 
news of the occupation did not come as a complete surprise 
to Count Muraviov, our Foreign Minister. This seizure 
of Kiao-Chow served as a signal for our occupation of Port 
Arthur and Ta-lieng-wan. It was, in fact, the first link 
in the chain of events which culminated in the disastrous 
Japanese war. 

When I learned that, in spite of my desperate opposition, 
it had been definitely decided to occupy those two Chinese 
ports, in flagrant violation of all our pledges to China and 
counter to our traditional Far-Eastern policy, I went straight 
to the German Ambassador, Tschirsky, and asked him 
to wire to his Emperor that, in the interest of both my own 
country and of Germany, I earnestly entreated and advised 
him to withdraw from Kiao-Chow, after having meted out 
justice to the guilty and, if he saw fit, imposed an indemnity 
on China. Otherwise, I concluded, the step would even- 
tually bring about most appalling results. Within a few 
days Tschirsky brought me the following dispatch written in 
the name of the Kaiser: "Tell Witte that, to judge by his 
dispatch, some very essential circumstances relating to the 
matter in question are unknown to him. Consequently, I 
cannot follow his advice." 

It was then that I recalled Grand Duke Alexey Alex- 
androvich's story about the Kiao-Chow incident at Peterhof 
and also Count Muraviov's reception of the news of Ger- 
many's entrance into Kiao-Chow. Some time later Count 
Muraviov, in discussing with me my opposition to the oc- 
cupation of Port Arthur, let the cat out of the bag. He 
admitted that we had, in his words, "rashly given our con- 
sent to the step which Germany had taken." 

The subsequent course of events I have described it at 
some length elsewhere in these memoirs convinced me that 
it had been the intention of German diplomacy and of the 
German Emperor himself to drag us, by hook or crook, into 



4 i2 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Far-Eastern adventures, so as to divert our forces to the 
East and leave them a free hand in Europe. It may properly 
be mentioned here that Emperor William is also partly to 
blame for the Boer War. He ostentatiously encouraged 
President Kriiger to refuse England's demands, sending him 
a most demonstrative and provocative telegram. Of course, 
when the war broke out, he discreetly withdrew into the 
background. As a result, the Republic of the Transvaal 
was destroyed and England considerably weakened for the 
time being. For those who worship nationalism in the ex- 
treme Emperor William is an ideal example of an eminent 
ruler. He stops at nothing to benefit the country and the 
people he governs. 

Thinking of the methods which William used to influence 
the mind of our Emperor to his own advantage, I recollect 
an incident which marked the end of the manoeuvres at 
Reval, in the summer of the year 1902, attended by the 
two Emperors. In the course of the customary farewell 
signalling exchanged between the two Imperial yachts, the 
Emperor flashed the following phrase: "The Admiral of the 
Atlantic sends his greetings to the Admiral of the Pacific," 
which in plain language meant as much as this : "I seek 
to dominate the Atlantic; as for you, I advise you to try and 
become the master of the Pacific, and in that undertaking 
I am ready to help you." It is curious that the dispatches 
sent by His Majesty to Admiral Alexeyev in 1902, 
and, especially, in the following year, reveal an ill- 
disguised desire on his part to reach a dominating position 
in the Pacific. There is no doubt in my mind that this 
disastrous orientation is partly due to William's influence on 
our Emperor. 

I have reason to believe that His Majesty was to a certain 
extent aware of the fact that he was being hoodwinked by 
the German Emperor for the glory of the German cause. 
During the meeting of the two rulers at Potsdam in 1903, 



MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE KAISER 413 

Emperor Nicholas surprised his host by studiously avoiding 
any discussion dealing with politics generally and Far- 
Eastern affairs in particular. It appears that the danger of 
a war with Japan was not brought home to His Majesty 
until the very last moment. Shortly before the beginning 
of the conflict, Emperor William warned His Majesty that 
Japan was feverishly preparing for war. His Majesty 
replied that there would be no war since he did not wish it. 

Upon the outbreak of hostilities, Emperor William hast- 
ened to assure His Majesty of his devotion to Russia and 
of the security of our Western frontiers. Nevertheless, as 
if in compensation for his promise not to attack us, the 
German Emperor, in a private letter to His Majesty, re- 
quested his consent to a number of changes in the commer- 
cial treaty of 1894, which had just then expired. These 
changes were so ruinous to our industries that I resolutely 
opposed them and advocated the maintenance of the status 
quo in our economic relations with Germany, but, alas ! the 
days of Alexander III were gone, and we had to yield. The 
matter was taken up by a special conference of statesmen 
under my presidency, and we arrived at the conclusion that, 
to avoid a break with Germany, we must submit to her 
demands. I was appointed to conduct the negotiations and 
instructed to secure access to Germany's money market in 
exchange for our concessions. By that time we had spent 
the funds I had accumulated as Minister of Finance and 
we were in sore need of foreign loans to finance the war 
and, later, to weather the revolutionary storm. 

The negotiations were conducted at Norderney, Ger- 
many, Chancellor Biilow representing Germany. I spent 
two weeks on that island, most of the time in the Chan- 
cellor's company. His wife would sometimes join us after 
dinner. An admirer of Tolstoy, she was at that time read- 
ing a book on the Decembrists. Biilow was curious to know 
my opinion on the Japanese war, which was then in progress. 



4 i4 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

I prophesied alas! falsely that on sea we would suffer 
reverses, but that on land we would eventually triumph. 
My host tried to impress me with the fact that the German 
Monarch was doing everything in his power to please the 
Russian Emperor and that he had shown himself to be a 
true friend of Russia. As for negotiations, I soon per- 
ceived, he felt sure that I would make all the concessions 
that were demanded of us. ... He must have been in- 
formed from St. Petersburg that I had received instruc- 
tions to bring the parley to a peaceful end at any price. 
We haggled a good deal, but finally came to terms. I 
cannot say that I acted freely. I could not for a single 
moment forget that we had on our hands a most unfortunate 
war and that our western frontiers were practically open. 

Long before the end of the pourparlers, I broached to 
Biilow the subject of floating a Russian loan in Germany. 
Should we agree on the treaty, I said, we would expect 
Germany to throw open her money market to us. Person- 
ally he saw no obstacles, but he pointed out that the German 
Emperor's motto was: "German money for Germans 
only." To corroborate his statement, he showed me sev- 
eral telegrams he had received from the Emperor on that 
subject. When it came to signing the treaty we went to 
Berlin for that purpose I succeeded, by acting with deter- 
mination, in securing the Kaiser's formal permission to 
float a loan on the German money market. 

By dragging us into the war with Japan, Germany suc- 
ceeded in weakening us and also, indirectly, our ally, France. 
Having achieved this result, she might have remained quiet 
for a long time, in spite of the Emperor's restlessness, had 
it not been for the rapprochement between France and 
England, which originated at that time. The two countries 
reached an understanding, embodied in a formal document, 
regarding their respective spheres of influence in Morocco. 
Germany seized upon this circumstance and declared that 



MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE KAISER 415 

she had commercial interests of her own in Morocco, which 
she intended to defend and that, furthermore, neither Eng- 
land nor France could take any steps in Morocco without 
Germany's consent. A diplomatic wrangle ensued, in which 
Germany behaved so arrogantly that a break seemed prob- 
able. Since it was suggested from Berlin that as long as 
Delcasse, who had negotiated the Anglo-French Morocco 
agreement, remained Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Ger- 
man diplomats were likely to be intractable, Delcasse with- 
drew and his portfolio was entrusted to Prime Minister 
Rouvier. 

That happened in 1905, shortly before my arrival in 
Paris on my way to the United States, where I was to 
negotiate peace with Japan. I found the French Govern- 
ment in a state of alarm. Everybody was anxious to see the 
war liquidated and our attention transferred from the fields 
of far Manchuria to the basin of the Vistula. The general 
apprehension was increased by the sudden meeting of the 
two Emperors at Bjorke. Count Lamsdorff did not mention 
this meeting to me at our last interview before my depar- 
ture from St. Petersburg, for the simple reason that he knew 
nothing about it. His Majesty himself said nothing about 
it either, although he knew, of course, that it was going to 
take place. I assured all those who asked me that the 
interview had no political significance, but in the meantime 
I wired to Count Lamsdorff for an explanation. His reply 
it came immediately was to the effect that the meeting 
was a purely private affair. I showed the dispatch to 
Rouvier and thereby allayed his fears. 

When President Roosevelt told me at Portsmouth that 
the whole world was anxious to see peace restored between 
Russia and Japan, I inquired of him whether the German 
Emperor was included. An emphatic "yes" was the reply. 
In fact, when peace was concluded, Emperor William sent 
enthusiastic congratulations to His Majesty. It was easy 



4 i6 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

enough for him to be enthusiastic, for, in the meantime, did 
he not succeed, by the Bjorke agreement, in dragging Russia 
into a worse muddle than the war? 

On my way back from the United States I stopped in 
Paris again, as I had important business to transact there. 
Already, during my previous visit, I had broached to Rou- 
vier the subject of a Russian loan in France. He would 
help me contract it, Rouvier assured me, should I succeed in 
liquidating the war. Now that I came to take up the matter 
with him more definitely, he declared that, until the Mo- 
rocco incident was peaceably settled, a loan was out of the 
question, and he earnestly begged me to use all my influence 
to render the German diplomats more tractable in their 
negotiations with France. In return for my services he prom- 
ised to give me full assistance in the matter of the loan. I 
agreed to that arrangement and went straight from the 
Quai d'Orsay to see Prince Radolin, the German Ambas- 
sador in Paris, with whom I was on friendly terms. With- 
out entering into a discussion of the Morocco affair, I 
pointed out to him that Germany should assume a less exact- 
ing attitude, for otherwise Rouvier's Cabinet was certain 
to fall and be succeeded by one that would be much less 
tractable. I also alluded to the fact that Russia was inter- 
ested in seeing France, and Europe generally, at peace, for 
the reason that we intended to carry out a large financial 
transaction which would be thwarted if the unsettled con- 
dition of the European stock exchanges persisted. To my 
surprise, Prince Radolin confessed that he found Rouvier's 
demands perfectly just and that, personally, he saw no 
obstacles to an amicable settlement of the controversy. He 
added, however, that the negotiations were conducted, not 
by him, for he was considered a Gallophile in Berlin, but 
by a certain Kaufmann, a very bellicose and intractable 
person indeed. I was immediately introduced to the Ger- 



MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE KAISER 417 

man plenipotentiary, and it did not take me long to find 
out that no concessions were to be expected from him. 

The next day I visited Rouvier again. Personally, he 
confided to me, he attached little importance to the conces- 
sions in the Morocco affair on which Germany insisted, but 
the country, he said, was in such an ugly mood that, should 
he yield to those demands, his Cabinet would be forced to 
resign. I suggested then that he come to an agreement 
with his opponents regarding the secondary issues of the 
dispute and that he propose to Germany the arbitration of 
the main issues by an international conference, with the. 
understanding that the decision of the conference was to 
be binding upon both sides. This, I added, would free the 
present Cabinet from the responsibility for the outcome of 
the Morocco affair. Rouvier remarked that this scheme 
had occurred to him, but that it had been rejected by the 
German plenipotentiary. 

In the meantime, I had learned that King Edward of 
England desired to see me. A similar invitation was also 
received from Emperor William. I replied that, to my 
regret, I could not visit their Majesties before reporting 
to my Monarch. Afterwards, however, I was instructed to 
visit the German Emperor. Before leaving for Berlin, I 
paid a visit to the President of the Republic, Loubet, as a 
sop to French public opinion; and I also informed both 
Prince Radolin and Rouvier that I would try to convince 
Emperor William of the desirability of turning the Morocco 
conflict over to an international conference for arbitration. 

I met the Emperor in his Prussian hunting castle at 
Rominten, which is situated near the Russian frontier, a 
short distance from Verzhbolovo. I reached the railway 
station in the morning and was greeted in the Emperor's 
name by aged Count Eulenberg. He drove me in his car 
to the castle and told me that His Majesty entertained a 
very high opinion about me, that he admired my Ports- 



4 i 8 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

mouth achievement, and that he was waiting for me with 
impatience. 

The Emperor, accompanied by a small retinue, met me 
in front of the castle. He spoke to me very graciously and 
ordered the Minister of the Court to take me to the apart- 
ment assigned to me. Properly speaking, the castle of 
Rominten hardly deserves its high-sounding name. It con- 
sists of two plain, rustic, two-story houses, rising on a hill, 
with a number of cottages scattered below them. The two 
houses are joined by a roofed gallery, and one is of some- 
what simpler construction than the other. They are occu- 
pied by the Emperor's family, his retinue and guests, the 
cottages accommodating the servants. A village lies at 
some distance, and all around there are woods, the Em- 
peror's hunting grounds. The Emperor, his attendants, 
and the guests wear hunting costumes, Emperor William, 
one must bear in mind, is very fond of all manner of uni- 
forms. Life is very simple at the castle; the rooms are 
plainly furnished, but everywhere there are the customary 
German cleanliness and order. 

Shortly after I found myself in my rooms, I was visited 
by Count Eulenburg, who is, by the way, one of the most 
intimate friends of the Emperor and a prominent member 
of the Court camarilla. Our talk turned about the general 
political situation, Russo-German relations and similar 
topics. The count told me, among other things, that His 
Majesty had not forgotten the conversation he had had with 
me at Peterhof some years ago, and I expressed my regret 
that my words had had no practical results. Count Eulen- 
burg replied vaguely that my hopes were probably nearer 
realization than I thought. 

At breakfast His Majesty introduced me to the Empress, 
whom I had already had the honour of meeting, and also 
the Princess, their only daughter, a homely but attractive 
girl whom her parents seemed to idolize. I was also intro- 



MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE KAISER 419 

duced to the rest of the party, which included, besides Count 
Eulenburg, the Minister of the Navy, a general and two 
young adjutants. At table I sat next to the Empress and 
our talk was of a social nature. Her Majesty told me, 
among other things, that several years ago the Emperor 
had no liking for motor cars, but that recently he had grown 
so fond of them and drove at such a speed that she was 
sometimes actually worried. 

After breakfast His Majesty took me aside, and our talk 
assumed a serious aspect. Having referred briefly to my 
success at Portsmouth, he turned to the general political 
situation in Europe and reverted to our Peterhof conversa- 
tion. I reiterated my profound belief in the desirability of 
a general rapprochement of the three main bodies politic 
of Europe: Russia, Germany, and France, this rapproche- 
ment tending to become a close union, which, of course, 
would be joined by other European powers. Delivered 
from the burden of military expenditures, Europe would be 
enabled to create a mighty naval force which would domi- 
nate the world. His Majesty assured me that he shared my 
views and then declared that my scheme had finally been 
carried into effect at his meeting with Emperor Nicholas at 
Bjorke. It was Emperor Nicholas himself who had au- 
thorized him to communicate to me this secret information, 
he added. Having imparted to me this extraordinary piece 
of news, His Majesty asked me whether I was satisfied with 
this development, and in my innocence I replied that his 
words had filled my heart with joy. We parted. 

Later in the day, after His Majesty had returned from 
the hunt, we had another talk. I opened it by pointing out 
that French public opinion should be gradually prepared 
for the idea of a rapprochement with Germany by a series 
of well-thought-out and systematic measures. To my regret, 
I said, this has not been done, and in late years the two 
countries have been drifting apart, a circumstance which 



420 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

had thrown France into England's arms and finally resulted 
in the celebrated Morocco understanding. In the course of 
my recent visit to France, I added, I found that public opin- 
ion was greatly aroused against Germany and, while the 
market was seriously upset, I even heard talk of war. 
Apparently, I concluded, after the Bjorke compact, nothing 
had been done to bring about a rapprochement between the 
two countries. The Emperor admitted that nothing had 
been done up to that time, but stated that the necessary 
measures would be taken in due course. He was strangely 
reticent, I noticed, about the substance of the Bjorke under- 
standing and clearly would not let me read the instrument. 
I thought he considered it proper to leave this to Emperor 
Nicholas. 

In the course of our talk His Majesty strongly denounced 
the French Government, saying that it had always been 
hostile to Germany and to his person. He had repeatedly 
wanted, he said, to take the initiative in establishing har- 
monious relations with France, but the deplorable lack of 
good-will and tact on the part of the Republic's representa- 
tives had invariably been a stumbling block. He was espe- 
cially indignant at Delcasse's action in concluding the Mo- 
rocco treaty with England. German diplomats had been 
aware, he said, of the negotiations, but they had not been 
alarmed because they had believed that once the treaty was 
concluded, they would be properly informed of its sub- 
stance. Seeing, however, that not a word about the treaty 
came from either party, the Government concluded that the 
understanding did not affect Germany at all. But when the 
text of the treaty became known, His Majesty continued, 
it appeared that the agreement related to matters in which 
Germany was directly concerned, for she had vested com- 
mercial interests in Morocco. This forced us to show, His 
Majesty concluded, that no treaties regarding matters in 



MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE KAISER 421 

which Germany's interests are involved can be made with- 
out her consent, let alone without her knowledge. 

In reply to this tirade, I observed that France had given 
proof of her earnest desire to make up for that unfortunate 
incident. Had not Delcasse been forced to quit his post 
and had he not been succeeded by a man who was anxious to 
settle the matter amicably? I went on to quote Ambassador 
Radolin to the effect that Rouvier was willing to make all 
the concessions that could reasonably be expected of him 
and that, on the whole, the attitude of the French Govern- 
ment was very tactful. I also called His Majesty's atten- 
tion to the fact that Rouvier was favourably disposed to 
the idea of a Franco-German entente and that, should the 
negotiations fail, his Cabinet was likely to be succeeded by 
one which might be disinclined to favour that idea. In my 
explanations I went into great detail, for I noticed that the 
Kaiser was not abreast of the negotiations which his pleni- 
potentiary was conducting in Paris. I then repeated the 
arguments I had expounded to Ambassador Radolin in 
favour of having the matter arbitrated by an international 
conference, and I reported that both the German Ambas- 
sador and Rouvier approved of this plan. Should France 
reach an understanding with you as a result of the present 
parley, I added, some other country, for instance the United 
States of America, might object to that agreement and 
thereby place both parties to the treaty in a very awkward 
position. Under the circumstances, I concluded, an inter- 
national arbitration conference is the best possible solution. 

A pause ensued, at the end of which, His Majesty took 
a blank, penned a telegram to Chancellor Biilow and showed 
it to me, saying: "You have convinced me. The matter will 
be settled in accordance with your views." 

Our conversation lingered en for a while. His Majesty 
spoke slightingly of our Ambassador to Great Britain, 
Count Benckendorff, whose chief diplomatic role was that 



422 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

of the King's partner at bridge. He asked me what I 
thought of Russia's internal situation, which, according to 
his information, was fraught with danger. I made no 
attempt to conceal from him the fact that, owing to our 
erroneous domestic policies and the unfortunate war, our 
country was seething with discontent and the Government 
had lost its prestige. I also ventured the opinion that in 
the end a constitution would have to be granted. Some of 
the reforms demanded by the people, the Emperor believed, 
should be yielded, but once the changes found necessary 
were introduced, no further concessions should be made 
under any circumstances. That opinion, His Majesty 
added, he had also expressed to Emperor Nicholas. The 
subject of our war with Japan the Kaiser studiously avoided. 
He had not forgotten, I should judge, the telegram I sent 
to him through Counsellor Tschirsky at the time of Ger- 
many's occupation of Kiao-Chow. 

After we had parted and I returned to my quarters, the 
Minister of the Court brought me two presents from the 
Emperor. One was His Majesty's portrait in a gilt frame, 
bearing the following autograph inscription: "Portsmouth 
Bjorke Rominten. Wilhelm rex." The other was the 
chain of the Order of the Red Eagle. The inscription on 
the portrait summarized the course of policy which William 
had pursued ever since our decision to open peace negotia- 
tions. After his conversation with me, he apparently no 
longer doubted that, on one hand, Russia's defeat set his 
hands free in the East, and, on the other hand, that the 
Portsmouth and Bjorke agreements meant Germany's ag- 
grandizement in the West with the help of Russia. And 
to think that all that was achieved without a drop of Ger- 
man blood shed or a German pfennig spent! But man 
proposes and God disposes. 

As for the extraordinary decoration bestowed upon me 
by His Majesty the chain of the Red Eagle is given only 



MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE KAISER 423 

to sovereigns or members of their families he could give 
me no other mark of distinction, for I had already the Order 
of the Black Eagle, which is the highest German decoration. 
This high honour must have been partly the reason why 
Emperor Nicholas was moved to bestow upon me the rank 
of Count. 

I was told by the Court Minister that, .if I wished to 
please His Majesty, I should wear the chain at dinner. The 
request greatly embarrassed me, for I had taken along none 
of my uniforms, knowing that in America they would be 
useless to me. It was agreed that I should wear the chain 
on my dress coat and that the Minister would report to His 
Majesty why I appeared without my uniform and other 
decorations. 

Having come down to dinner, I thanked the Emperor for 
his attentions to me. We dined in the circle which I have 
already described. After dinner the young Princess and the 
adjutants left and we passed into an adjacent room. Settled 
in comfortable arm-chairs, the company sipped coffee and 
beer, smoked, and generally behaved without any constraint 
or affectation. Later in the evening we took turns in telling 
anecdotes and humorous stories, this apparently being a 
customary feature of the gatherings in the castle of Romin- 
ten. The Emperor was the one to laugh and make merry 
more than anyone else. Most of the time he sat on the 
arm of the chair occupied by Count Eulenburg, embracing 
him, as it were, with his right arm. Of all those present it 
was precisely Count Eulenburg who looked and behaved like 
a sovereign. At about ten o'clock His Majesty bade us 
good-night and the party broke up. 

The next day I again lunched with their Majesties. I 
was very favourably impressed by the remarkable simplicity 
of their life and the extreme amiability of their manners. 
In official life the Emperor is somewhat brusque in gesture 
and affects that fastidiousness which is characteristic of a 



424 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

well-born German officer of the Guards, but in private life 
he is charming. After the luncheon I took leave of the 
company and prepared to bid farewell to the Emperor, 
when, to my amazement, he declared that he would drive 
me to the railway station in his own motor car. His 
Majesty seated me at his side while the inevitable Count 
Eulenburg was in the front seat. The trip lasted some ten 
minutes and we could exchange but a few remarks. His 
Majesty advised me, I remember, to communicate with him, 
in case of need, through Count Eulenburg. "Writing to 
him," he said, "is the same as writing to me, and his replies 
are my replies." The Emperor accompanied me to the 
platform, where I took leave of him. Then I boarded the 
train. His Majesty stood on the platform till the moment 
when my train pulled out of the station. 

As soon as I found myself alone, I penned on a scrap of 
paper a brief note to the French Ambassador in Berlin and 
dispatched it by the courier attached to the Berlin agent of 
our Ministry of Finance, who had accompanied me. In this 
note I asked the Ambassador immediately to inform Rou- 
vier that I had arranged the Morocco affair and that the 
German Emperor had already given the necessary instruc- 
tions to Chancellor Biilow. I have never been able to obtain 
the original of this note, in spite of its importance as docu- 
mentary proof of the fact that in 1905 I prevented a clash 
between France and Germany. In 1907, however, I suc- 
ceeded in getting for my files an official copy of my note in 
the form in which it was transmitted by telegraph to Min- 
ister Rouvier. The dispatch was sent from Berlin, in my 
name, on September 28 (new style), 1905, that is, imme- 
diately upon receipt of the original note by the French 
Ambassador. Its text follows: J'ai eu I'honneur de pre- 
senter a I'Empereur d'Allemagne mes explications sur les 
questions marocaines et Sa Majeste a eu la bonte de me dire 
qu'Elle n'a pas f intention de faire des difficult es au gou- 



MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE KAISER 425 

vernement franqais et qu'Elle donnera a ce sujet ses ordres 
imperiaux. ("I have had the honour of presenting to the 
German Emperor my explanations on the subject of the 
Morocco question, and His Majesty was good enough to 
tell me that he had no intention of causing any difficulties to 
the French Government and that he would issue the neces- 
sary instructions.") 

On the day after my arrival in St. Petersburg I had an 
interview with Emperor Nicholas aboard the imperial yacht 
Standard, anchored off the coast of Finland. His Majesty 
received me in his stateroom and thanked me cordially for 
the successful achievement of the difficult task with which 
he had entrusted me [the Treaty of Portsmouth] and for 
the accuracy with which I had carried out his instructions, 
both in letter and spirit. Thereupon he bestowed upon me 
the rank of Count, in recognition of my services to himself 
and Russia. In the course of our subsequent talk, His 
Majesty told me that he had received a letter from Emperor 
William, in which the German sovereign spoke of me in 
admiring terms. He was glad, he added, that I shared the 
views which were the foundation of his agreement with 
Germany, concluded at Bjorke. I always have advocated, 
I interposed, an entente between France, Germany and 
Russia. His Majesty observed that he knew I had spoken 
about it to Emperor William several years before. The 
text of the mysterious agreement, however, His Majesty 
did not show me. 

The next day I met Count Lamsdorff, our Minister of 
Foreign Affairs. After the customary greetings and con- 
gratulations, he asked me, his voice vibrant with ill-con- 
trolled indignation: 

"Do you really approve of the Bjorke compact?" 

I replied in the affirmative and proceeded to unfold my 
views on the desirability of an entente among Russia, Ger- 
many, and France, when he interrupted me, saying: 



426 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

"But have you read the Bjorke treaty?" 

I confessed that I had not, whereupon he handed me the 
text of the document, saying that he had received it only on 
the previous day and bidding me read it. The count looked 
profoundly excited and upset. As I read the document, 
I understood the cause of his excitement. The substance of 
the agreement was that Germany and Russia obligated 
themselves to defend each other in case of war with any 
other European power (including France, therefore). 
Russia pledged itself to make every effort to gain France 
over to this union (but whether or not this result was at- 
tained, the agreement between the two countries was, never- 
theless, valid). The agreement was to become effective 
from the moment of the ratification of the Portsmouth 
Treaty (as much as to say: If the war keeps up, well and 
good; if the war stops, Russia will be dragged into a worse 
muddle) . The instrument was signed by the two sovereigns 
and countersigned by a German official, whose name I was 
unable to make out and, on our side, by the Minister of 
the Navy, Birilev. 

The agreement meant that we were to defend Germany 
in case she chose to wage war against France, and this in 
spite of the fact that since the beginning of the 'nineties we 
have had an understanding with France, in virtue of which 
we were pledged to defend her in case of a war with Ger- 
many. On the other hand, Germany obligated herself to 
defend European Russia in case of a war with any other 
European power, but this provision was practically worth- 
less, inasmuch as in the Far East, our Achilles' heel, Ger- 
many left us to our own resources. 

I declared to Count Lamsdorff that the agreement must 
be rescinded at any cost, and that I would rather go on 
fighting Japan than ratify the Portsmouth treaty and thus 
validate the Bjorke agreement. 

"This is monstrous," I exclaimed. "The treaty dis- 



MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE KAISER 427 

honours us in the eyes of France. Is it possible that all this 
has been concocted without you and that you knew nothing 
about it?" 

Count Lamsdorff repeated that until the preceding day 
he had been kept in complete ignorance of the matter. 

"Does not His Majesty know that we have a treaty with 
France?" I asked. 

"Of course His Majesty knows that," he replied, "but 
the fact must have slipped from his mind, or, what is more 
probable, his brain was befogged by William's verbiage and 
he failed to grasp the substance of the matter." 

We put our heads together to find a way out of the 
difficulty. The hardest part of the task, in Count Lams- 
dorff's judgment, was to secure His Majesty's consent to 
the cancellation of the agreement. We could find some 
legal flaws in the agreement, on which to base a formal 
plea for its abolition. Finally, we agreed to advance the 
following arguments : first, that the treaty was not counter- 
signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs; second, that the 
treaty in question was in contradiction to our previous 
treaty with France; and, third, that the ratification of the 
Bjorke compact must be preceded by and depend upon a 
corresponding agreement with France. Should these argu- 
ments fail, we decided to declare that Russia would leave 
the Portsmouth treaty unratified rather than recognize the 
Bjorke agreement as it stood. This agreement, we deter- 
mined, should be reduced to a simple statement on our part 
that we adhered to the principle of a Russo-Franco-German 
entente and were ready to obligate ourselves to carry that 
policy into effect. 

In my capacity of President of the Committee of Minis- 
ters I had no official access to His Majesty. As for Count 
Lamsdorff, I did not set much store by his ability to influence 
His Majesty's mind in so weighty a matter. So I decided to 
turn for help to Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaievich, who, 



428 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

I knew, exerted a strong influence upon His Majesty, owing 
both to his connection with occultism and to his devotion to 
Nicholas, not only as the Emperor, but also as a man. I 
have reason to believe that the Grand Duke was familiar 
with the substance of the treaty long before the Foreign 
Minister, but I did not find that out till later. He listened 
to me attentively and seemed to grasp the point that the 
agreement was essentially a dishonourable act on the part 
of His Majesty. Our task, I told him, was to secure His 
Majesty's consent to the abrogation of the agreement, and 
Count Lamsdorff would take care of the rest. He promised 
to discuss the matter with the Emperor. 

The next man I happened upon was Minister Birilev, 
whose signature decorated the Bjorke compact. 

"Do you know, Sir," I asked him, "what you signed at 
Bjorke?" 

The Minister candidly confessed that he did not know. 
"I do not deny," he explained, "that I signed some ap- 
parently important document, but I haven't the slightest 
notion what it was all about. This is how it all happened : 
His Majesty summoned me to his stateroom and asked me 
pointblank: 'Do you believe me, Alexey Alexeyevich?' 
Naturally, there could be but one answer. 'In that case,' 
His Majesty went on, 'sign this paper. It is signed, as you 
see, by the German Emperor and myself and countersigned, 
on Germany's side, by the proper official. Now, the German 
Emperor wants it to be countersigned by one of my Min- 
isters.' Of course, I applied my signature to the paper." 

Several days later I was summoned by the Emperor to 
Peterhof. I found there the Grand Duke Nicholas and 
Count Lamsdorff. His Majesty received us together, and 
at this improvised conference it was decided that the Bjorke 
agreement must be annulled. Though His Majesty keenly 
felt the awkwardness of his position, he consented, after 
some bickering, to the cancellation of the treaty and em- 



MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE KAISER 429 

powered Count Lamsdorff to take the necessary steps. The 
German reply to our first note was rather evasive, but its 
general tenor was: What's done is done and you cannot 
back out of the agreement. Then we dispatched a second 
note, wherein we did not mince words. Later, after I had 
assumed the task of governing the Empire in my capacity 
of Prime Minister, Count Lamsdorff told me in reply to 
my inquiry: "Rest assured, Sergey Yulyevich, the Bjorke 
agreement no longer exists." As a result of this incident, 
our Foreign Minister drew upon himself the enmity of 
Emperor William, and I was told that His Majesty had 
ceased admiring me and singing my praises. Ever since 
1905 we have been drifting closer toward a union with 
England. In 1905, the two Emperors met again at Swine- 
miinde; and I have been told by the Chief of our General 
Staff that, while no written agreement was concluded, the 
two Monarchs confirmed the intention to act in the spirit of 
the Bjorke understanding. This may have been a mere 
phrase, but it is my firm belief that if we fail to give 
Emperor William real satisfaction, he will constantly bear 
us a secret grudge. 

Fortunately, the international conference for the settle- 
ment of the Morocco controversy met before the annulment 
of the Bjorke agreement. Had the conference been post- 
poned, it would probably never have met, for, after the 
abrogation of that treaty, the German Emperor was in no 
mood to abide by the decisions of an assembly which owed 
its existence to my initiative. We were vitally concerned in 
the Algeciras game (the conference was held at Algeciras). 
I have mentioned already the fact that the conclusion of a 
loan in France was out of the question before the settlement 
of the Morocco affair. Consequently, our interest de- 
manded the earliest possible termination of the conference. 
Germany, on the other hand, was inclined to prolong mat- 
ters. She was guided by the time-hallowed principle of 



430 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

German diplomacy: "The longer you haggle, the more you 
gain." Besides, she was prompted by the desire, first, to 
increase our financial difficulties and, second, to retaliate on 
me for the annulment of the Bjorke agreement. As for 
Rouvier, he saw clearly our part of the game and grew less 
tractable, in order to force Kashin, our delegate at the 
conference, to side with France. In the meantime, our 
financial situation was rapidly deteriorating and a foreign 
loan was becoming more and more imperative. 

In despair, I resorted to the good offices of Count Eulen- 
burg and dispatched a letter to Emperor William, entreating 
him to speed up the proceedings of the Algeciras Confer- 
ence, thus enabling us to contract the sorely needed loan. 
I pointed out to him that it was essential for us to conclude 
the loan before the meeting of the First Imperial Duma, so 
as not to become totally dependent upon that newly created 
institution. Emperor William's reply was amiable but 
negative. It was clear that I could expect no assistance from 
that quarter. Some time later, the German Emperor wrote 
me, through Count Eulenburg, asking me to bring pressure 
to bear for the purpose of rendering the Frenchmen more 
tractable. At the same time he wrote to Emperor Nicholas 
that I would fail in my efforts to contract a loan, for the 
reason that the Jewish bankers would not participate in it. 
As for Rouvier, he reiterated his readiness to render me 
every assistance in floating the loan, but not before the end 
of that accursed conference. Under these circumstances, I 
went forward hurriedly with my extensive preparations for 
the loan, so as to effect it without unnecessary delay as soon 
as the conference was terminated. 

In proportion as Germany grew more exacting and dila- 
tory, our representative at the conference sided more and 
more strongly with France. Finally the conference ended, 
France having scored a complete triumph, owing to our 
support and that of England. To retaliate for this out- 



MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE KAISER 431 

come of the conference, the Berlin Government forbade the 
German bankers to participate in our loan. The Germans 
even went further in their resentment. During my visit to 
the United States I arranged for the American group of 
bankers, headed by Morgan, to take part in the loan. 
Now, Morgan is on very good personal terms with the 
German Emperor. His banking firm took part in the pre- 
liminary negotiations for the loan, but at the last moment, 
when the German Government forced its bankers to refrain 
from participation in the loan, Morgan's group, too, with- 
drew. There's German friendship for you ! . . . Never- 
theless, I foiled the efforts of Emperor William's Govern- 
ment and succeeded in floating the largest foreign loan in 
the history of modern European nations, a loan the impor- 
tance of which for Russia could hardly be exaggerated. 
The full story of that loan, with all its remarkable incidents, 
is told elsewhere in these memoirs. 

Goremykin's Government, which succeeded mine in April, 
1906, is fairly to be charged with an effort deliberately to 
sully my political reputation in the eyes of the world, and 
particularly in the eyes of Emperor William. They must 
have feared my political resurrection, I should judge. An 
indictment of me and my policies was drawn up in the form 
of a memoir, and Baron Ehrenthal, formerly Austrian Am- 
bassador to Russia, was entrusted with the task of present- 
ing it to the German Emperor, which he did. A year later 
the memoir was published, if I remember rightly, in La 
Revue des Revues. The document, I have reason to believe, 
made no impression on the German sovereign. Neverthe- 
less, this memoir, coupled with a missive he had received 
from a Black Hundred Chief of Kiev and, perhaps, with a 
gentle hint or two from high sources, made it clear to him 
that further attentions to me might displease His Majesty, 
Emperor Nicholas. It is true that long before the appear- 
ance of that memoir I had ceased to be persona grata in 



432 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

Berlin. In fact, I believe that His Majesty's critical atti- 
tude toward my policies, in the second phase of my premier- 
ship, was partly due to Emperor William's influence. At 
any rate, I have not seen Emperor William since our 
memorable interview at Rominten, and the last New Year's 
card he sent me is dated 1906. I am told, however, that 
whenever he happens to speak about my activities, he men- 
tions my name with great respect and calls me the most 
intelligent man in Russia. Early in May, 1911, the German 
Kronprinz Friedrich and his wife visited Tsarskoye Selo. 
On a previous occasion I had been introduced to him in 
St. Petersburg. The two of us attended a reception and 
concert given by the German Ambassador, but he did not 
approach me in the hall, which was rather crowded. 
Whether or not this happened by mere chance, I cannot tell. 

In September, 1907, Russia and Great Britain concluded 
a treaty relating to Persia, Afghanistan and Tibet. The 
agreement inaugurated the policy of philandering with 
England. Since we did not give up our traditional flirting 
with Germany, the situation became rather ambiguous. At 
present we are trying to adjust ourselves to it by assuring 
Germany that, of course, we love her best and that we are 
flirting with England merely for appearance's sake, while 
to England we say the reverse. I believe we shall soon 
have to pay for this duplicity. 

The rapprochement with England, the ally of France, 
who is our own ally, has resulted in the formation of a 
triple Entente, as opposed to the triple Alliance of Ger- 
many, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. The history of the 
Entente is as follows: On my way from Portsmouth I 
stopped in Paris and met there, among other people, 
Kozell-Poklevski, first secretary to our Embassy in London. 
He brought me an invitation from King Edward to pay 
him a visit, but I could not accept it without my Monarch's 
express permission, which I failed to obtain. At the same 



MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE KAISER 433 

time our Ambassador in Paris, Izvolsky, submitted to me 
a project of an agreement with Great Britain, substantially 
identical with the one which was later actually concluded. 
I asked Kozell-Poklevski to inform the King that should 
I on my return to Russia assume the governmental power 
I would use all my influence to establish friendly relations 
with Great Britain. I added, however, that I was decidedly 
opposed to the idea of concluding the treaty sketched to 
me by Izvolsky, for the reason that it was best for us not 
to tie ourselves down by treaties. I feared that an agree- 
ment with Great Britain would arouse the jealousy of Ger- 
many. As a result, we would perhaps be forced into making 
an agreement with that country, too, and be cheated in the 
end. It was owing to my opposition that the agreement 
was not concluded before 1907. 

The agreement was a triumph of British diplomacy. It 
dealt chiefly with Persia. The Northern part of that coun- 
try, which includes its most fertile and thickly populated 
sections, had from times immemorial been within our sphere 
of influence. With the conquest of the Southern parts of 
the Caucasus, formerly provinces of Persia and Turkey, the 
Northern part of Persia was naturally destined, so to speak, 
to become a part of the Russian Empire. To prepare that 
eventuality we sacrificed a great deal of our blood and 
treasure. The agreement set all these sacrifices at naught. 
According to it, Southern Persia was to be under the eco- 
nomic influence of Great Britain, while the North was left 
to us. As for Persia's central Government, it was to be 
controlled by Russia and Great Britain acting jointly. Since 
Teheran, the seat of the central Government, is situated in 
the North, this meant British influence in the North as well 
as in the South. 

Russia has no annexationist designs upon Afghanistan. 
We are merely interested in preserving its status quo as a 
buffer State between Russia and British India. True, the 



434 THE MEMOIRS OF COUNT WITTE 

agreement provided for the preservation of this status quo, 
but stipulated that the country should be under the exclusive 
influence and protection of Great Britain, so that we were 
not even allowed to have our diplomatic representative 
there. This meant that all our negotiations with the Gov- 
ernment of Afghanistan were to be conducted through the 
British authorities. Under these circumstances the buffer 
became something in the nature of a loaded gun pointed at 
us. In Tibet the contracting parties obligated themselves 
not to introduce any missions or troops. We also re- 
nounced all claims to the Southern Persian ports. 

The agreement was concluded without regard to the 
claims of the other Powers upon Persia. For that reason 
the division of Persia was rather futile. No sooner was the 
treaty published than Germany began to seek to safeguard 
its economic interests in Persia. As early as 1904 the Ger- 
man Government in the person of von Buelow complained 
to me that we were hindering the freedom of importing 
German goods to Persia. In 1911 we concluded an agree- 
ment with Germany, agreeing to connect the railroads of 
Northern Persia with the German Bagdad line and also to 
give her a free hand in Northern Persia with regard to her 
imports. In sum, what have we achieved? By signing the 
agreement with Great Britain we made it impossible for us 
to annex Persia politically, and by entering into an agree- 
ment with Germany we lost Persia economically, for eco- 
nomic competition with Germany under equal conditions 
means certain defeat for us. In a word, Persia has slipped 
out of our hands. At present [1912] we can play there 
merely the part of a policeman, until the native Government 
grows strong enough to restore order. 



END 



INDEX 



INDEX 



Afghanistan, agreement with Great Britain 
in respect to, 432 

Agrarian law of Stolypin, 386 

Agricultural Conference, formation of, 216 

Agricultural Experiment Station at Murgab, 
34 

Alexander II, policy adds to ranks of revolu- 
tionists, 37; killed by terrorists, 38; visit 
to Kiev, 26; unsafe speed of Imperial train, 
28; in railroad wreck at Borki, 29; desires 
that W. accept post of Director of De- 
partment of Railroad Affairs, 30; inter- 
ested in reducing diets, 31; memories of, 
37; service in war with Turkey, 38; of 
limited education, 37, 38; personal thrift, 
39; led unimpeachable life, 40; importance 
as ruler, 41; attitude toward peasantry, 43; 
attitude toward war, 43; "the Peace- 
maker," 44; favorable treatment of Po- 
land, 44; in failing health, 45; dies at Yalta, 
46; efforts to curtail vodka traffic, 55, 56; 
endorses retaliatory tariff against Ger- 
many, 66; prefers Yekaterina Harbour to 
Libau as naval base, 180; Jewish policy of, 
376; meets future German Kaiser at Brest- 
Litovsk, 402 

Alexander Mikhailovich, Grand Duke, 
warned of danger of Port Arthur seizure, 
101; efforts in extending Russian influence 
in Korea, 116 

Alexandra, Empress, enmity toward W., 193; 
as Princess Alix, sought as wife for Nicho- 
las II, 196; their marriage, 198; gratified 
at W.'s resignation, 362 

Alexey Alexandrovich, Grand Duke, pre- 
sides at conference on Sino- Japanese situa- 
tion, [83; responsible for Alexeyev's rise 
to power, 127; forces Nicholas II to sign 
decree constituting Libau the naval base, 
181 

Alexeyev, Admiral, appointed Viceroy in 
the Far East, 123; appointed commander- 
in-chief of fighting forces, 127; difficulties 
with Kuropatkin and his dismissal, 131; 
decorated on arrival home, 132 

Algeciras Conference, effect on proposed 
Russian loan, 295, 296, 298; a German de- 
feat, 430 

Amur Railroad, a military project, 177 

Anastasia, Princess, divorces Prince Yuri of 
Leuchtenberg, and marries his cousin 
Grand Duke Nicholas, 200, 201, 203 

Andreyevski, succeeded by W. as Director 
of South Western Railroad, 21 

Andronikov, Prince M., telegraphs W., of 
danger in returning to Russia, 366 

Arctic sea route to Far East, search for, 105 

Armenians massacred in Constantinople 
and in Asia Minor, 186 

Army, number recruits mobilized yearly 
left to Duma, 353 

Arsenyev, in delegation asking W. to in- 
duce Emperor to receive workmen's 
petition, 252 

Austria, preparations for war with, 123 



Badmayev, contends for Peking as terminus 
for Trans-Siberian Railway, 86 

Benckendorf, Count, fearful for safety of 
royal family, 313; comment of William II 
on, 421 

Bezobrazov, militaristic plots of, 79; efforts 
in extending Russian influence in Korea, 
116; influences Nicholas II in Manchurian 
aggression, 118; appointed Secretary of 
State, 119; attends conference at Port 
Arthur, 120; Manchurian enterprises a 
failure, 124 

Bieberstein, Marschall von, acting for Ger- 
many in drawing up commercial treaty, 69 

Birilev, ignorant of text of document signed 
at Bjorke, 428 

Bismarck, protests against Russian customs 
duties, 62; protests to Giers against pro- 
tective tariff, 62; expresses high opinion of 
W., 72 

Bjorke, agreement between German and Rus- 
sian Emperors at, 415, 416, 419, 425 

Black Hundreds, "anarchists of the Right," 
191; instigate pogrom against the Jews, 
273 

Blavatski, Yelena Petrovna, career of the 
celebrated theosophist, 4 

Blioch, head of railroad corporation, 20 

Bloody Sunday, of the revolution, 250 

Bobrikov, appointed Governor-General of 
Finland, 259; assassinated, 260 

Bobrinski, Count Vladimir, induces W. to 
enter railway service, 15; at parliamen- 
tary conference, 229; contends for demo- 
cratic election law, 344 

Bokhara, Emir of, calls on Li Hung-Chang, 
93 

Borki, accident to Imperial train at, 29 

Boxer Rebellion, outbreak of, 107 

Bryanchaninov, journalist with Peace Mis- 
sion, 137 

Budberg, formulates plan for the manifesto, 
242, 246; urges military rule in Baltic 
provinces, 258 

Budget, juggling with the, 192 

Biilow, Prince, attitude toward Russian 
loan, 300; negotiations with at Norderney, 
413 

Bulygin, appointed Minister of Interior, 

' 225; a dummy official, 226; only serious 
reform, 226; removed as Minister of the 
Interior, 319 

Bunge, Ex-Minister of Finances, protests 
against issue of paper money, 48; tutor 
to Czarevitch Nicholas, 54; resolute enemy 
of the obshchina, 387 



Caprivi, Count, acting for Germany, in 
drawing up commercial treaty, 69; puts 
through Russo-German commercial treaty, 
404 

Cassini, Count, instructed to vote for France 
at Algeciras Conference, 298; sensational 
Temps article on instructions to, 301 



437 



INDEX 



Censorship regulations, committee for revis- 
ing, 223 

Chang Ing Huan, signs lease of Kwantung 
Peninsula, 103; exiled and murdered in 
consequence, 107 

Cherevin, Adjutant-General, expresses Em- 
peror's displeasure at slowness of trains, 28; 
responsible for wreck of Imperial train at 
Borki, 29 

Chikhachev, Admiral, N. M , head of Odessa 
Railroad, 16; scapegoat after Telegul catas- 
trophe, 17, 18; responsible for selection of 
Libau as naval base, 181; dismissed from 
his post, 181; member of conference on 
needs of agricultural industry, 216 
China: Russia prevents Japan from occupy- 
ing Liaotung peninsula, 85; secret treaty 
signed with, 91; grants railroad concession, 
95; signs lease of Kwantung Peninsula, 103; 
Wei-Hai-Wei seized by Great Britain, 106; 
French occupation in South China, 106; 
agreement with, for evacuation of 
Manchuria, 118; Germany plans for 
conquests in, 410; Kiao-Chow seized by 
Germany, and Port Arthur by Russia, 
411 

Chino- Japanese War, effects on Russia, 82 
Cholera, investigations of epidemic, 35 
Columbia University, bestows degree upon 

W., 170 

Concessions, court traffic in, 37, 52, 74 
Congress of Berlin, robs Russia of fruits of 

victory, 38 

Constitutional manifesto, publication of, 232 
Cotton, experiments in growing, 34 
Council of Ministers, establishment of, 231 
Currency reform, gold standard adopted, 59 
Curtin, Jeremiah, visits W. at Portsmouth, 
164 

Darmstadt, Princess of, bride of Nicholas 
II, 46 

Delcasse, considers war between Japan and 
Russia impossible, 125; urges Russia to 
construct Orenburg-Tashkent Railway to 
threaten India, 178; forced to retire by 
pressure from Berlin, 415 

Delyanov, Minister of Public Education, 
removes prominent professors of liberal 
tendencies, 42 

Derviz, railroad king, 20 

Dillon, Dr., English journalist accompanying 
Peace Mission, 137; sends first wireless 
interview from ship, 139; visit at Biarritz, 
389 

Dolgorukov, Prince, member of conference 
on needs of agricultural industry, 216; 
discharged as Chairman of District Board 
of Kursk, 217; in Paris opposes loan to 
Russia, 294 

Drenteln, Governor-General, in Poland, 45 

Dubasov, General, appointed Governor- 
General of Moscow, 281; attempt on his 
life, 283 

Dubrovin, Dr., actions approved by Nicholas 
II, 192; a leader of the Black Hundreds, 342 

Duma, decree providing for, 229; formation 
of, 343; difficulties with Stolypin, 371 

Dundukov-Korsakov, Prince, Governor- Gen- 
eral of Kiev, 8 

Durnoyo, Ivan Nikolaievich, against im- 
porting foreign capital, 74; his opinion of 
Nicholas II at time of accession to throne, 
179; at head of conference for study of 
needs of landed gentry, 208; opposes for- 



mation of conference for study of peasant 
problems, 211, 214; anti-Jewish policy, 380 

Durnovo, Piotr Nikolaievich, explains Grand 
Duke Nikolai's attitude toward dictator- 
ship, 248; unfortunate appointment as 
Minister of the Interior, 320; reports on 
Komissarov's anti- Jewish activities, 332 

Durnovo, P. P., becomes Governor-General, 
278 

Duties, differential, with America, abolished, 
166 

Economist, The, on collapse of gold standard 

in Russia, 295; subsidies obtained by, 391 
Electoral laws, drafting of, 343; discussions 

on, 344 
Employers' Liability Bill favoured by Nicholas 

II, 58 

Entente, Triple, history of, 432 
Eulenberg, Count, at Rominten, 417 
"Exceptional status" regulations, 393, 397 
Expropriation of land for peasantry, bills 

proposed for, 335 

Fadeyev, Gen. Andrey Mikhailoyich, grand- 
father of W., 3; influence in deciding career, 
15; result of letter to, against revolutionists, 
22 

Fashoda incident, the, 178 

Finances, condition of, during management 
of W., 78 

Finland, Russification of, 259; revolution in, 
260 

France, occupies territory in China, 106; 
attitude toward Russo-Japanese Peace 
Treaty, 162; supported by Russia in 
Moroccan controversy, 298 

Frederichs, Baron, Nicholas II answers W.'s 
memorandum orally through, 185; suc- 
ceeds Count Vorontzov-Daskov as Minis- 
ter of the Court, 193; at conference dis- 
cussing successor in -ase of death of Nich- 
olas II, 194; draft of Manifesto read to, 
241; visits W. to discuss manifesto, 242; 
letter advising W. not to return to Russia, 
363; the reply, 364; second message to, 
365 

Freedom of the press granted by Constitu- 
tional Manifesto, 396; throttled by Stoly- 
pin, 397 

French intrigue against adoption of gold 
standard by Russia, 60 

Fundamental code, drafting of, 345 

Galitzin, Prince, in the public workers* union, 
256 

Gapon, Father, organizer of police socialism 
in St. Petersburg, 251; exiled, 253; offers 
to betray revolutionary committee to 
Government, 254; assassinated, 254 

Garin, named Senator, 326 

Germany, commercial treaty concluded with, 
62; preparations for war with, 123; op- 
posed by Russia, in Moroccan contention, 
298; forbids participation in Russian loan 
in resentment for Russia's part in Alge- 
ciras settlement, 431 

Gerard, member conference on needs of 
agricultural industry, 216; appointed 
Governor-General of Finland, 260 

Giers, Bismarck protests to against protec- 
tive tariff, 62; objection of, to retaliatory 
measures, 66 



INDEX 



439 



Ginzburg Baron, in deputation to plead cause 
of Jews, 381 

Glazov, General, attitude during revolution, 
257; dismissed as Minister of Instruction, 
318 

Gold standard, introduction of, 59, 292 

Golitzyn-Muravlin, appointed to committee 
on revision of censorship regulations, 223 

Goremykin, at head of futile agricultural 
conference, 218; formulates plan for the 
manifesto, 242, 246; at conference discuss- 
ing fundamental laws, 352; dissolves 
Duma, 355; succeeds W. as President of 
Council of Ministers, 355; a failure in office, 
367 

Gorki, Maxim, in delegation asking W. to 
induce Emperor to receive workmen's 
petition, 252 

Great Britain seizes Wei-Hai-Wei, 106; 
attitude toward Russo-Japanese Peace 
Treaty, 162; signs Treaty with Russia 
relating to Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet, 
432 

Gredeskul, in the Union of Zemstvos and 
Town Delegates, 256 

Grodekov, General, appointed commander- 
in-Chief , 292 

Giibbenet, inefficient Minister of Ways of 
Communication, 32 

Gubonin, railroad king, 20 

Guchkov.iin the Union of Zemstvos and Town 
Delegates, 256; at conference of public 
leaders, 325; chief Duma orator on military 
matters, 375 

Gurko, Governor-General, in Poland, 45 

Hademant, journalist, accompanies Peace 
Mission, 138 

Harden, Maximilian, calls on W. at Bis- 
marck's suggestion, 71, 72 

Hartman, revolutionist, plot to kill, 23 

Harvard University, visit to, 147 

Hesse, General, connection with destruction 
of Sipyagin diary, 183; asks Rachkovsky 
for report on the charletan Philippe, 202 

Hessen, I. V., in the Union of Zemstvos and 
Town Delegates, 256; assists in statement 
to Emperor criticizing draft of fundamen- 
tal laws, 356 

Heyden, Count, in the Union of Zemstvos 
and Town Delegates, 256 

Hilkqv, Prince, emotion at signing of re- 
script providing for parliamentary legisla- 
tion, 229; at conference on revolt of 1905, 
240; defends Union of Railway Workers, 
256; relieved as Minister of Ways of Com- 
munication, 325 

Hirsch, court physician, 194 

Hirshman, on Manchurian military policy, 
111 

Holy Brotherhood, The, formation of the 
society, 22 

Hume, spiritualistic medium, 6, 7 

Ignatyev, Count N. P., a Jew-hater, 190; 
at parliamentary conference, 229; at con- 
ference discussing fundamental laws, 352; 
anti- Jewish policy, 380 

Industry and commerce, development of, 76 
Insurance, obligatory workers', 224 
Irrigation opposed by people of Transcas- 

pia, 34 

Italy, demands cession of Sang-Ming by 
China, 106 



Japan, War with, 79; prevented from occu- 
pying Manchuria after Sino-Japanese War, 
83; treaty signed with, regarding Korea, 97; 
appeals to Great Britain and the United 
States regarding Russian activities in 
Yalu district, 120; renews negotiations 
regarding spheres of influence in Man- 
churia and Korea, 122 

Jews, Kiev and Odessa riots against, 25; 
attitude of Nicholas II toward, 190, 191; 
the pogrom at Homel, 191 ; attitude of high 
officials against, 327, 331; uprising in 
Odessa, 263; pogrom instigated by Black 
Hundreds, 273; difficulties under Stoly- 
pin, 375, 383; attitude of Alexander III 
toward, 376; evil factors of the revolution, 
377; anti-Jewish legislation and pogroms, 
380 

Jews, in America, attitude toward Russia, 
148; give support to W. at Peace Confer- 
ence, 162; deputation at Portsmouth asks 
alleviation of abuse of Jews in Russia, 164 

Jewish opposition to Russian loan, 293, 299 

Jewish problem, discussed by Committee of 
Ministers, 225 

Judges, tenure of office, 351, 353 

Katkov, famous journalist, 9 

Kaufmann, German plenipotentiary in Mo- 
roccan controversy, 416 

Kerbedz, associated with W. on South- West- 
ern Railroads, 21 

Khvostov, proposed for Minister of the In- 
terior, 391 

Khodynka disaster, 181 

Kiao-Chow, William II plans for occupation 
of, 410; seizure of, 98, 411 

Kiev, anti- Jewish riots, 25 

Kishinev, anti- Jewish outbreak, 381 

Kleigels, abandons post as Governor-Gen- 
eral of Kiev, 264 

Kobeko, author of temporary press regula- 
tions, 397 

Kokovtzev, N. assistant to Minister of Fi- 
nances, 51; wrongful use of vodka monop- 
oly, 56; becomes Minister of Finance, 125; 
as Minister of Finances objects to projected 
abolition of redemption payments, 218; 
opposed to a Cabinet of Ministers, 231; 
attitude during revolution, 257; on com- 
mittee to watch transactions of Imperial 
Bank, 295; efforts to obtain loan, 295; 
sent to Paris to conclude loan negotiations, 
303; asks for bonus on conclusion of loan, 
309; claims entire credit, 310; succeeds 
Stolypin, 392; continues perlustration of 
private correspondence, 395; proposes new 
regulations for control of press, 397 

Komissarov, anti- Jewish activities, 331 

Komura, attitude in America, 141; meets 
Russian envoys on President Roosevelt's 
yacht, 146; compared to other Japanese 
statesmen, 151; at the Peace Conference, 
152 

Konovnitzyn, Count, assassinated, 283 

Korea, treaty signed with Japan demarcating 
spheres of influence, 97; Japan's dominating 
position recognized, 106 

Korostovetz, with Peace Mission, 137 

Kotzebue, Count, Governor-General of 
Odessa, 15; efforts against anti- Jewish 
rioters, 25 

Kovalevsky, M. M., assists in statement to 
Emperor of criticizing draft of funda- 
mental laws, 356 



440 



INDEX 



Kovalevsky, Vladimir Ivanovitch, delegated 
byTrepov to report on test of fundamental 
laws, 356 

Kozell-Poklevski, brings invitation to W. to 
visit King Edward, 432 

Kozlov, General, becomes Governor-General 
but forced to resign, 278 

Krasovsky, in the union of Zemstvos and 
Town Delegates, 256 

Krestovnikov, favours the Duma, 279 

Krivoshein, in plot against Agricultural 
Conference, 218; controversy with Emperor 
over appointment of, 339 

Kronstadt, revolutionary riots break out, 273 

Kriiger, President, encouraged by William II, 
in contest with Great Britain, 412 

Kryzhanowski, drafts electoral law, 343 

Kulisher, in deputation to plead cause of 
Jews, 381 

Kurino, insists on answer to Japanese note, 126 

Kuropatkin, General, Alexey Nikolaievich 
insists on building of strategic railroads, 75; 
opposes appeal to Powers for partial dis- 
armament, 97; sees in Boxer Rebellion an 
opportunity to seize Manchuria, 107; 
dispatches troops to Manchuria, 110; self- 
seeking efforts with the Emperor and Em- 
press, 115; insists on holding of Manchuria, 
118; submits report on activities in Korea, 
121; to command troops on Austrian front 
in case of war, 123; appointed commander 
of armies in Far East, 127; asks advice of 
W., 128; difficulties with Alexeyev, 131; 
succeeds him but is in turn succeeded by 
General Linevich, 131; reproaches Plehve 
with being only Minister to desire Russo- 
Japanese War, 250; in Russification of 
Finland, 259; responsible for demoraliza- 
tion in Army, 287 

Kutaisov, inefficient Governor-General of 
Siberia, 264 

Kutler, project for expropriation of land for 
peasantry, 337; made scapegoat, 339 

Lamsdorff, Count, contends for handling of 

Far Eastern affairs by diplomatic, not 

military service, 120; ignored in treating 

with Japan, 124, 126; asks W. if he will 

accept post of peace plenipotentiary, 134; 

at conference discussing successor in case of 

death of Nicholas II, 194; note to Count 

Osten-Sacken on Algeciras Conference, 298; 

enlightens W. on real Bjorke compact, 425 

Leiden, Dr., treats Alexander III, 45 

Li Hung Chang, Ambassador Extraordinary 

to Russia, 85; reduced in power, 107; 

signs lease of Kwantung Peninsula, 103; 

remarks on attitude of Nicholas II on 

Khodynka disaster, 182 

Libau, selected as naval base, 180 

Likhachov, Adjutant-General, desire to 

crush revolt of 1905, 238 
Linevich, General, succeeds Kuropatkin as 
Commander-in-Chief, 131; slowness in re- 
turning troops from Manchuria, 290; dis- 
missed as Commander-in-Chief, 292 
Lisanevich, Madame, becomes wife of W., 35 
List, Frederick, German economist, 63 
Litvmoff-Falmski, argues against arrest of 

Lobanov-Rostovski, Prince, at conferences on 
bino- Japanese affairs, 83, 84; at signing of 
secret treaty with Li Hung Chang, 92 
iV -Xi gives formation of anti-Jewish 

plot, ool 



Lvov, in the Union of Zemstros and Town 
Delegates, 256 

Makarov, Admiral, killed at Port Arthur, 
105; Commander Post of Kronstadt, 106; 
appointed Commander-in-Chief of Far- 
Eastern Navy, 106; goes down with his 
ship, 130 

Makaroff, tries to justify shooting of Lena 
miners, 277 

Maklakov, in Paris opposes loan to Russia, 
294 

Malishevski, Director of the Credit Chancery, 
51 

Manchuria, native opposition to building of 
railway, 109; agreement with China for 
evacuation of, 117 

Manifesto of October 17, 1905, text of W.'s 
memorandum on, 237; nullified by Stoly- 
pin, 392 

Manuilov-Manusevich, intercedes for Father 
Gapon, 253 

Mamikhin, Minister of Justice, publishes 
manifesto against parliamentary reforms, 
228 

Marchand, Colonel, at Fashoda, 178 

Maria Fyodorovna, influence of, on her son 
Nicholas II, 195, 196 

Martens, Professor, member of Peace Mission, 
136 

Martino, demands cession by China of Sang- 
Ming to Italy, 106 

Maximovich, General, 'removed as Governor- 
General of Poland, 261 

Mechnikov, Professor, in University of 
Odessa, 14; displaced, 42; fearful of con- 
fiscation of his property, 313; brutal scheme 
for suppression of the revolution, 314 

Meller-Zakomelski, succeeds Sologub as 
Governor-General of Baltic provinces, 
258; General, success in reopening Siberian 
railway, 291 

Meline, intrigues against adoption of gold 
standard by Russia, 60 

Mendeleyev, Director of Chamber of Meas- 
ures and Weights, 51; advocates Polar 
route to Far East, 105 

Mendelssohn, banking house, participation 
in loan, 303, 304, 306 

Meshchersky, Prince, asked to warn Nicholas 
II of danger in Manchurian policy, 119 

Migulin, Professor, project for expropriation 
of land for peasantry, 335; connections 
with Sazonov, 390 

Mikhail Alexandrovich, Grand Duke, se- 
lected to succeed to throne in case of death 
of Nicholas II, 194; at conference discussing 
fundamental laws, 352 

Mikhail Nikolaievich, Grand Duke, his 
father's favourite, 40; President of Imperial 
Council passing gold standard bill, 61; 
at conference discussing successor in case 
of death of Nicholas II, 194 

Militza, Princess, Montenegrin wife of Grand 
Duke Peter, 200, 201 

Miliukov, in the Union of Zemstvos and Town 
Delegates, 256; assists in statement to Em- 
peror criticizing draft of fundamental laws, 



Mirski, Prince, See Svyatopolk-Mirski 
Mitrovich, paramour of Mme. Blavatski, 

5,7 

Moksoeskiya Vedomosli, articles written for, 25 
Montenegrin Princesses, baleful influence 

upon Russian Court, 200, 201 



INDEX 



441 



Morgan, J. P., negotiations with, 169; the 
famous nose, 170; refuses participation in 
Russian loan, 297, 303 

Moroccan Controversy, France favoured over 
Germany in Algeciras Conference, 298; 
attitude, 415 

Morozov, Sayva, enmeshed in revolutionary 
net, commits suicide, 279 

Moscow, insurrection in, 281 

Moscow Peasant Congress, closed by police, 
280 

Mosolov, General, on impossibility of dicta- 
torship, 248 

Mount Vernon, visit to, 171 

Mukden, defeat at, 131 

Mukden, Governor of, issues proclamation 
accusing Russia, 110 

Muraviov, Count Mikhail Nicolayevich, 
appeals to Powers for partial disarmament, 
96; proposes seizure of Port Arthur, 99; 
appointed. plenipotentiary to conduct peace 
negotiations with Japan, but refuses post, 
134; admits Russia gave consent to German 
occupation of Kiao-Chow, 411 

Muraviov-Amursky, Count under the spell 
of "Dr." Philippe, 199 

Murgab, visit to, 33; people oppose irrigation, 
34 

Murpmtzev, assists in statement to Emperor 
criticizing draft of fundamental laws, 356 

Nabokov, with Peace Mission, 137; in the 
union of Zemstvos and Town Delegates, 256 

Naryshkin, at parliamentary conference, 229 

Naryshkin, K. V., revolutionists threaten to 
kill wife and daughter of, 291 

Neidhart, brutality in Odessa, 263 

Nelidov, nearly causes war with Turkey, 186 

Nemyeshayev, appointed Minister of Ways 
and Communications, 325 

Neutzlin, negotiations with for loan, 293; 
asked to come to Russia and arrange 
terms of loan, 296; instructions as to final 
procedure, 302; goes to London to confer 
with bankers on loan, 303; advises that 
loan is accomplished fact, 307 

Newspapers unite against Government, 255 

Newport, visit to, 147 

Nicholas II, boyish pranks, 26; incapable of 
appreciation, 41; marriage with Princess 
of Darmstadt, 46; personal interest in rail- 
road building, 53; favours Employers' 
Liability bill, 58; mainly instrumental in 
adoption of gold standard, 61; presents 
uniform of Russian admiral to Wilhelm II, 
71; expresses appreciation of W.'s services 
in Imperial rescript, 78; appoints W. Presi- 
dent of Committee of Ministers, 80; am- 
bitious for Eastern conquest, 83; sends 
ultimatum to Japan preventing occupa- 
tion of Liaotung peninsula, 84; receives 
Li Hung Chang, 89; appeal to Powers for 
partial disarmament, 96; resolves to seize 
Port Arthur, 99; goes to Darmstadt, 124; 
reviews all army contingents before depart- 
ure to the Manchurian front, 130; asks 
W. to accept post of peace plenipotentiary, 
135; insistence on no indemnities or cession 
of land te Japan, 155; instructions to break 
off peace negotiations, 158; accession and 
coronation, 181; unscrupulous tendencies, 
183; his early desire for war, 186; vacillat- 
ing policy during Russo-Japanese War, 186; 
plans for war with Turkey, 188; hostility 
toward Great Britain, 189; attitude toward 



illegal executions, 189; attitude toward 
the Jews, 190; serious illness at Yalta, 194; 
under influence of his mother, 195, 196; 
effort to find wife for, 196; marries Princess 
Alix of Hessen-Darmstadt, 198; belief in 
holiness and miracles of Saint Seraphim, 
205; orders canonization of Father Sera- 
phim, 205; his attempts at reforms, 207; 
signs decree for liberal reforms, 222; signs 
rescript providing for parliamentary leg- 
islation, 228; manifesto of October 17, 
1905, 237, attitude toward pogrom against 
Jews, 274; attitude toward the Russian 
loan, 308; insists that Skalon be granted 
large loan from Imperial Bank, 333; con- 
troversy with, over appointmenT>tf Kriv- 
oshein, 339; powers restricted [357 jfnessage 
to W., accepting resignation^ ^61/ the 
Imperial rescript, 362; attitud<r"Toward 
Jews, 383; antipathy to German Kaiser, 
405; bestows rank of Count on W., 425; 
induced to annul Bjorke agreement, 429 

Nicholas, Prince, of Montenegro, seeks 
favour of Alexander III, 200 

Nikolai Nikolaieyich, ST., Grand Duke, 18, 19 

Nikolai Nikolaievich, Jr., Grand Duke, 
Commander-in-Chief of proposed Army to 
face Germany, 123; influence over Nicho- 
las II, 195; belief in the divinity of the 
Emperor, 196; at conference submitting 
draft of manifesto to Emperor, 241; in 
favour of manifesto, 244; indifferent to 
fate of the country, 245; induces Emperor 
to sign manifesto, 247, 310; attitude 
toward constitution, 249; persuaded to send 
troops to Moscow, 283; attitude when 
revolution threatened, 342; at conference 
discussing fundamental laws, 352 

Nikolsky, A. P., appointed Director of Min- 
istry of Agriculture, 342 

Noblemen's Conference, discussions at, 209 

Nolde, Baron, drafts decree for projected 
reforms, 221 

Norderney, negotiations with Chancellor 
Bulow, at, 413 

Nosar, president of first soviet, 270; arrested, 
275 

Novoye Vremya preaches doctrine of rnanncht 
against Japan, 176; in league with other 
newspapers against the Government, 255; 
influenced by Workmen's Soviet, 271, 275, 
277 

Obolenski, Prince Alexey Dimitriyevich, 
not favoured by Count Lamsdorff for peace 
mission, 135; delivers oral answer of Nicho- 
las II to W.'s memorandum, 185; com- 
plains of Court interference in affairs of 
Holy Synod, 205; asked by W. to draw up 
plan of Manifesto, 241; memoir by, 244; re- 
signs as Governor-General of Finland, 
260; regret at participation in movement 
for constitutional manifesto, 310; appointed 
Procurator of the Holy Synod, 318; tends 
to extreme conservatism, 349 

Obruchev, Chief of Staff, obsessed with idea 
of strategic railroads, 75; indifferent on 
Eastern policy, 83 

Obshchina, the peasant commune, 386 

Occultism in Court of Nicholas II, 195, 198 

Odessa, anti- Jewish riots, 25 

Orlov, Attorney-General, draws up indict- 
ment against W. and other students, 14 

Orlov, Prince, asks W. to attend conference 
with Emperor on revolt of 1905, 241 



442 



INDEX 



Osten-Sacken, Count, his opinion of Princess 
Alix, 197; note from Count Lamsdorff on 
Algeciras Conference, 298 

Ott, Professor, physician to the Empress, 204 

Palen, Count, advocates force to crush re- 
volt of 1905, 238; at conference discussing 
fundamental laws, 352 

Parliamentary body, attempt to create, 226 

Passport regulations, mitigation of, 215 

Pauker, inefficient as Minister of Ways of 
Communication, 32 

Peace Mission, personnel of, 136 

Peking, looting of, 108, 131 

Perlustration of private correspondence, evils 
of, 394 

Persia, agreement with Great Britain in re- 
spect to, 432; economic treaty with Ger- 
many, 434 

Peter Nikolaievich, Grand Duke, marries 
one of the Montenegrin Princesses, 201; 
indifferent to fate of country, 245 

Petroptulovsk, Admiral Makarov's flagship, 
sunk, 130 

Philippe, "Dr.", influence at Russian Court, 
198, 199; previous history of, 199; attains 
great influence at Court and with the Em- 
press, 203; death of, 206 

Planson, member of Peace Mission, 136 

Plehve, Vyacheslav Konstantinqvich, against 
use of foreign capital, 74; militaristic plots 
of, 79; influence on Nicholas II in Korean 
affairs, 124; a Jew-hatec, 190; forced to dis- 
miss Rachkovsky, 202; champion of ultra- 
feudal tendencies, 209; opposes formation 
of conference to study peasant problem, 
211, 214; appointed Minister of the Interior, 
217; assassinated, 217; favours a foreign 
war to stem tide of revolution at home, 250; 
extends police socialism to St. Petersburg, 
251; leading spirit of anti-Jewish policy, 380; 
assumes more liberal attitude, 381 

Pleske, appointed Minister of Finance, 80; 
becoming ill, succeeded by Romanov, 125 

Pobiedonostzev, K. P., influence on policy of 
Alexander III, 38; against University Code, 
42; against Employers' Liability bill, 58; 
fearful of misrule of Nicholas II, 180; in- 
formed by W. of impending attack on 
Turkey, 188; protests the canonization of 
Seraphim of Sarov, 204; obstacle to reform, 
220, 223, 228, 229; attitude during revolu- 
tion, 257; removed as Procurator of the 
Holy Synod, 318 

Podgorichani, Count, organizes anti-Jewish 
note at Homel, 191 

Poincare, favorable to loan, 302 

Pokotilov, member of Peace Mission, 136 

Poland, on verge of revolt, 261 

Polovtzev, against Employers', Liability bill, 
58 

Polyakov, railroad king, 20 

Polyanski, of "The Holy Brotherhood," 

Port Arthur, seizure of, 99, 411; captured by 
Japan, 131 

Portsmouth Peace Conference, arrival of dip- 
lomats, 149; signing of treaty, 159; church 
celebration on signing of peace treaty, 160 

I ostmkov. Professor, Assistant Minister of 
Education, 319 

Posyet, forced to resign as Minister of Ways 
of Communication, 29; why appointed, 32 

rotozky, General, at conference discussing 
fundamental laws, 352 



Propper, editor of Birzheviya Viedomosti, de- 
mands from the Government, 255 

Przeradski, Privy-Councillor, exposes Stoly- 
pin's practices, 368, 369 



Rachkovsky, report on the charlatan Phil- 
ippe, brings him into disfavour at Court, 
201, 202; anti-Jewish activities, 330 

Radolin, Prince, conversation with on Port 
Arthur occupation, 103; conversation with 
over Moroccan controversy, 416 

Rafalovich, interviews Rothschilds as to loan, 
293; writes from Paris explaining difficul- 
ties, 294, 300; dispatch to, on Germany's 
refusal to participate in loan, 305 

Railroad building for strategic considerations 
a fantasy, 75 

Railroad concessions and exploitation, 16, 
20 

Railroads, State ownership, 52 

Railway strikes, revolutionary, 269 

Rasputin, friendship for Sazonov, 390 

Rediger, General, confident of disaster in 
Russo-Japanese war, 131; at conferences 
on revolt of 1905, 240, 241; attitude during 
revolution, 257 

Reitern, Minister of Finance, efforts to estab- 
lish gold standard, 38 

Religion, necessity of, 224; conference on 
religious toleration, 223; freedom of con- 
science, privileges restricted, 398 

Rennenkampf, General, success in reopening 
Siberian railway, 291 

Revolution of 1905-1906, 250 

Richter, Captain, indiscriminate execution 
in Reval district, 189; urges military rule 
in Baltic provinces, 258 

Romanov, Piotr Mikhailovich, draws up 
agreement with China for railroad con- 
cession, 95; becomes Minister of Finances, 
125 

Roosevelt, President, displeased at Witte's 
attitude toward Japan, 144; ambition to 
be jpresident of Harvard University, 148; 
at Peace Conference, 153; letter to Baron 
Kaneko at Peace Conference advising 
against insistence on indemnity, 156; fare- 
well visit to, 165; on peace questions deals 
direct with Mikado, 153; with Nicholas II, 
166; sends message to Nicholas II asking 
free entrance of Jews of American citizen- 
ship, 174; compared with Taft, 384; fate 
of letter to Emperor on behalf of Ameri- 
can Jews, 385; assures W. at Portsmouth 
that German Emperor favoured peace, 415 

Rosen, Baron, member of Peace Mission, 136; 
meets Peace Mission on arrival, 143 

Rothschild and the Russian loan, 50; advo- 
cate of bi-metallism, 60 

Rothschild, Baron Alphonse, discusses preva- 
lence of occultism at Russian Court, 198 

Rothstein, negotiates loan with Rothschilds, 
50 

Rouvier, postpones question of Russian loan 
until settlement of Moroccan question, 
295, 300; fall of his cabinet, 301; succeeds 
Delcasse, 415; assures of help in obtaining 
loan, 416 

Rozhdestvensky, Admiral, fleet destroyed, 
132 

Russia, a government organ, 396 

Rus, articles written for, 25 

Russian State, The, founded by W., closed 
down by Stolypin, 395 



INDEX 



443 



Rusin, Captain, member of Peace Mission, 
136 

Russo-Chinese Bank, founded, 85 

Russo-Japanese War, origins and course, 
105; Japan attacks warships off Port 
Arthur Russia declares war, 126; Japa- 
nese underrated, 130; principal events of 
the war, 130; destruction of Rozhdestven- 
sky's fleet, 132; Peace of Portsmouth, 134; 
signing of Peace of Portsmouth, 159; 
effect on international situation, 177 

Samarkand, visit to, 33 

Samoylov, Colonel, member of Peace Mission, 
136 

Sang-Ming, cession demanded by Italy from 
China, 106 

San Stefano Treaty, nullified by Congress of 
Berlin, 38 

Sarrien, formation of cabinet, 302 

Sazonov, career of, 390 

Schiff , Jacob, at Portsmouth, 163 

Schwanebach, attitude during revolution, 
257; plans for allotment of lands to soldiers, 
290; on committee to watch transactions 
of Imperial Bank, 295 

Sechenov, in University of Odessa, 14 

Seligman, at Portsmquth, 163 

Seraphim of Sarov, canonization of, 204 

Sergey Alexandrovich, Grand Duke, favours 
scheme of police socialism, 250; assassi- 
nated, 278; implacable enemy of Jews, 377, 
380 

Shakhmatov, in delegation asking W. to 
induce Emperor to receive workmen's 
petition, 252; in the Union of Zemstvos and 
Town Delegates, 256 

Shcheglovitov, controls judiciary, 354 

Shcherbina, exiled from Voronezh, 217 

Sheremetyev, Count, efforts to recover Sipy- 
agin diary from Nicholas II, 184; member 
of conference on needs of agricultural 
industry, 216 

Sherval, Baron, responsibility in wreck of 
Imperial train, 29 

Shipov. member of Peace Mission, 136; in the 
union of Zemstvos and Town Delegates, 256; 
on committee to watch transactions of Im- 
perial Bank, 295; at conference of public 
leaders, 325; informs W. of the Skalon loan, 
333; vain protests to the Emperor, 334 

Shirinski-Shakhmatoy, Prince, career due 
to Saint Seraphim incident, 205 

Shishkin, draws up minutes of Conference on 
war with Turkey, 187 

Shuvalof, Count Pavel, initiates W. into 
"The Holy Brotherhood," 22; Russian 
Minister in Berlin, 65; objects to retaliatory 
tariff, 67, acknowledges he was wrong, 69 

Siberian Railway, construction of, 52 

Shimonoseki, Peace of, 82 

Sipyagin. letter to on Manchurian occupa- 
tion, 113; diary of, destroyed by Nicho- 
las II, 183; at conference discussing suc- 
cessor in case of death of Nicholas II, 
194; appointed Minister of the Interior, 
215; assassinated, 217; opposes scheme of 
police socialism, 251 

Sipyagin, Mme., efforts to recover her hus- 
band's diary, 184 

Skalon, Governor-General of Poland, 261 

Skalon, obtains personal loan from Imperial 
Bank, 333 

Sliosberg, in deputation to plead cause of 
Jews, 381 



Sologub, Governor-General, protests against 
illegal military executions in Rival dis- 
trict, 189; appointed Governor-General 
of Baltic provinces, 258 

Solski, Count, Dimitry, delegated by Em- 
peror to call council of Ministers in his 
stead, 227, 232; efforts in obtaining par- 
liamentary legislation, 229; desire to retire, 
232; appeals to W. to remain in harness, 
285; asks that order be conferred on Kok- 
ovtzev, 3O9; informs W. that a fundamental 
code was being drafted, 345 

Solski Conference, reforms inaugurated by, 
226, 231 

Soviet of Workmen's Deputies, organization, 
270; members arrested, 275 

Spiridonov, Madame, becomes wife of W., 20 

Stakhovich, M. A., in the Union of Zemstvos 
and Town Delegates, 256; at conference of 
public leaders, 325 

Stambulov, Stephen, 19 

Stolypin, plans building of Amur Railroad, 
177; inaugurates repressive measures, 272; 
requests W. not to resign from state ser- 
vice, 367; conflict with, 368; attempts to 
show political crimes as ordinary murders, 
368, 369; flagrantly violates laws, 369; 
treatment of the Duma, 371; handling of 
Jewish question, 375, 383, 384; enacts 
important agrarian law, 386; assassinated 
at Kiev, 389; weakens for perlustration of 
private correspondence, 394; throttles 
freedom of the press, 397 

Straus, Oscar, at Portsmouth, 163 

Strikes on railroads and in mills and facto- 
ries, 269 

Strikes, railroad, effect on returning of 
troops from Manchuria, 290 

Student life in America, impressions of, 171 

Subotich, General, defeats Boxer force in 
Manchuria, 110 

Sukhotin, Governor-General at Omsk, 265 

Suvorin, journalist with Peace Mission, 137 

Suvorin, A. S., favours constitution for noble- 
men only, 268; dies a millionaire, 271 

Svyatopolk-Mirski, remarks on strength of 
intellectuals, 190; displeases emperor in 
retiring Prince Shirinski-Shakhmatov,' 205; 
succeeds Plehve as Minister of the Interior, 
217; liberal ministry of, 220; retired by 
the Emperor, 225; at Conference deciding 
attitude of Government on receiving woik- 
men's petition, 252 

Taft, William H., in audience with Emperor, 
brings up question of American Jews en- 
tering Russia, 385 

Tagantzev, Professor, declines portfolio of 
Minister of Education 319 

Ta-lieng-wan, seizure of, 99, 411 

Tarle, Professor, wounded in street fighting, 
272 

Taxes, reforms introduced in levying, 214 

Telegul catastrophe, the, 16 

Temps, article on Cassini instructions, 301 

Tereshehenko, causes shooting of miners at 
Lena, 276 

Timiryazev, Vasili Ivanovich, sent to negoti- 
ate commercial treaty with Germany, 
65, 69; appointed and dismissed as Minister 
of Commerce, 324 

Tolstoy, Count A. D., instrumental in changing 
university code, 42; policy toward the Jews, 
380 

Tolstoy, Count Leo, intercedes for exiled 



444 



INDEX 



peasant, 217; influence of doctrines on 
revolution, 288 

Tolstoy, Count Ivan Ivanovich, appointed 
Minister of Instruction, 319; in sympathy 
with W.'s policy in resigning, 361; policy 
toward the Jews, 383 

Trepov, General, a Jew-hater, 190; in plot 
against Agricultural Conference, 218; 
appointed Governor-General of St. Peters- 
burg, 225; associate Minister of the In- 
terior and veritable dictator, 226; anxious 
to retire from dictatorship, 257; at con- 
ference on revolt of 1905, 240; advised of 
plans for the manifesto of October 17, 1905, 
243; takes "delegation" of workmen to 
the Emperor, 253; regime causes national 
opposition, 278; resigns as Asst. Minister 
of the Interior and is appointed Court 
Commandant, 326; incident at funeral of 
Alexander III, 327; powerful friends at 
court, 328; interests himself in Skalon 
loan affair, 334; incident of Kutler's peasant 
bill, 334; prime mover in promulgating 
fundamental code, 346; presents statement 
to Emperor on fundamental laws, 358 

Trubetzkoi, Prince, at conference of public 
leaders, 325 

Tschirsky, asked to entreat German Emperor 
to withdraw from Kiao-Chow, 101 

Turkestan, visit to, 33 

Turkey, war with, 18, 19, 38; pretexts for war 
with, 186 

Tyrtov, at conference on seizure of Port 
Arthur, 99 

Tzerpitzky, General, loots town of Kulo, 
112 

Tzion, falsely accuses Vyshnegradski of 
accepting graft, 49 

Ukhtomski, Prince, escorts Li Hung Chang 
to St. Petersburg, 87 

Ufigern-Sternberg, Baron, 16, 17 

Unions, organization of, 255 

United States, denounces commercial treaty 
with Russia, 385; William II, proposes 
economic war against, 410 

Universities, granted autonomy, 230 

University Code of 1884, unpopularity of, 42 

Urusov, Prince, at conference of public lead- 
ers, 325; speech in Duma on pogrom litera- 
ture, 332 

Ushakov, influence on Grand Duke Nikolai, 
249 

Vannovski, Piotr Semyonovich, favours re- 
taliatpry tariff, 68; supports W. in principle 
of maintaining integrity of Chinese Empire, 
83; at conference on seizure of Port Ar- 
thur, 99 

Varshawski, in deputation to plead cause of 
Jews, 381 

Vasilchikov, Prince, misled by rumours of 
revolution, 289 

Vinaver, in deputation to plead cause of 
Jews, 381 

Vladimir Alexandrovich, Grand Duke 
fearful of results of vodka monopoly, 
56; informed by W. of impending attack on 
Turkey, 188; at conference discussing 
fundamental laws, 352 

Vodka, efforts to restrict use, 54; state 
monopoly, 55 

Vogak, appointed General of His Majesty's 
retinue, 120 

Von Meek, railroad king, 20 



Vonlyarlyarski, Colonel, resells mining con- 
cession, 74 

Vorontzov-Dashkov, Count, letter to, 24; 
displeased at slow speed of imperial train 27 ; 
originator of phrase "the Peacemaker," 
as applied to Alexander III, 44; efforts in 
extending Russian influence in Korea, 116; 
remonstrated with for increasing expenses 
of Ministry, 193; member of conference on 
needs of agricultural industry, 216; a failure 
in the Caucasus, 264 

Vuich, N. I., examines draft of manifesto of 
October 17, 1905, 238; memoir by, 244 

Vyshnegradski, Ivan Alexyevich, head of 
management, South- Western Railroads, 21; 
offers W. post of Director of Department 
of Railroad Affairs, 30; accompanied on 
trip to Turkestan, 33; resigns as Minister 
of Finances and appointed member of Im- 
perial Council, 48; death, 49; accused of 
accepting graft, but proved guiltless, 49, 50; 
accompanies Kokoytzev to Paris to con- 
clude loan negotiations, 306 

Wallace, Mackenzie, accompanies Peace 
Mission, 138 

Wei-Hai-Wei, seized by Great Britain, 106 

Wendrich, Colonel, removal from railroad 
service, 33 

Werder, General, German Ambassador to 
Court of St. Petersburg, 65 

West Point, visit to, 168 

Wilhelm der Grosse, Peace Mission embarks 
on, 137 

William I, at Ems, 401 

Wilhelm II, desires uniform of Russian ad- 
miral, 70; efforts to entangle Russia in 
Far East, 105; directly appealed to to 
speed up work of Algeciras Conference, 301 ; 
with his grandfather at Ems, 401; at ma- 
noeuvres at Brest-Litovsk, 401 ; clash with, 
over tariff war, 403; craving for Russian 
uniform, 404; disliked by Nicholas II, 405; 
discourtesy toward Russian Empress, 405, 
406; attitude toward Nicholas II, 406; 
cordiality toward W. at Peterhof, 407; 
suggests tariff wall against American prod- 
ucts, 408; plans for conquests in China, 
410; appealed to by W. to withdraw from 
China, 411; encouragement to President 
Kriiger partly responsible for Boer War, 
412; at naval manoeuvres at Reval, 412; 
takes advantage of Russia when at war 
with Japan in exacting ruinous commercial 
concessions, 413; visit to, at Rominten, 
417 

Witte, family history, 3; early training, 10; 
enters Odessa University 12; from opulence 
to poverty, 13; enters railway service, 16; 
scapegoat after Telegal catastrophe, 17; 
valuable services in war with Turkey, 
18, 19; adherent of "Slav idea," 19; marries 
Madame Spiridonov, 20; member of Rail- 
road Commission, 18, 21; Director of South- 
western Railroads, 22; in "The Holy 
Brotherhood," 22; literary work, 25; con- 
tention against high speed of Imperial 
train, 27; accepts post of Director of De- 
partment of Railroad Affairs, 30; appointed 
Minister of Ways of Communication, 32; 
officially visits Turkestan, 33; his wife's 
death, 34; marries Madame Lisanevich, 
35; investigates cholera epidemic, 35; ap- 
pointed Minister of Finances, 36; efforts 
in construction of Trans-Siberian Railway, 
52, 86; transfers vodka traffic into hands 



INDEX 



445 



of the Government, 55; prophesies that 
no parliament will ever curb liquor traffic, 
57; introduces gold standard, 59; concludes 
commercial treaty with Germany, 62; 
promotes commercial and industrial educa- 
tion, 77; highly commended by Nicholas 
II in Imperial rescript, 78; appointed 
President of Committee of Ministers, 80; 
dealing with Li Hung Chang, 82; advocates 
principle of maintaining integrity of 
Chinese Empire, 83; opposes seizure of 
Port Arthur, 99; and tenders resignation 
to Emperor, 102; protests against Manchur- 
ian policy, 113; against schemes for ex- 
tending influence in Korea, 117, 119; sub- 
mits report on Far Eastern problem, 121; 
advice to Kuropatkin on departure to war, 
128; appointed chief plenipotentiary for 
purpose of conducting peace negotiations 
with Japan, 134; attitude in America, 140; 
impressions in New York, 143; visits 
President Roosevelt at Oyster Bay, 144; 
visits Harvard University, 147; the Peace 
Conference, 151; signing of Peace Treaty, 
160; rewarded by title of Count, 161, 175, 
425; jealousy at Russian Court, 165; degree 
bestowed by Columbia University, 170; 
visit to Washington, D. C., and Mount 
Vernon, 171; random impressions, 172; 
argues that war with Turkey would precipi- 
tate general European war, 187; object of 
Alexandra's enmity, 193; at conference dis- 
cussing succession in case of death of 
Nicholas II, 194; opposes granting further 
privileges to nobility, 209; proposes con- 
ference for study of peasant problems, 211; 
addresses letter to Nicholas II imploring 
him not to give up formation of this 
conference, 211; succeeds in carrying out 
tax reforms and mitigation of passport 
regulations, 214; commissioned to form 
"Special Conference on the Needs of the 
Agricultural Industry," 216; at conference 
on liberal reforms, 220; first president 
of Council of Ministers, 232; text of report 
to His Majesty, 233; text of memorandum 
on the Manifesto of October 17, 1905, 237; 
not in favour of the Manifesto, 245; op- 
poses police socialism scheme, 251; exiles 
Father Gapon, 253; opposes establishment 



of mi|itary rule in Baltic provinces, 257; 
handling of Polish situation, 261 ; difficulties 
during premiership, 272; falsely charged 
with collusion with Soviet, 278; President of 
Imperial Council, 285; difficulties in secur- 
ing foreign loan, 292; in report to Nicholas 
II accuses Germany of ulterior motives in 
Moroccan controversy, 298; appeals direct 
to William II, to speed up work of Algeciras 
Conference, 301; resignation, 315, 355; 
account of his premiership, 316; formation 
of cabinet, 318; intriguesj against, at 
Court, 340; letter to Emperor explaining 
resignation, 358; the Emperor's reply, 
361; Imperial rescript 362; practically 
banished, 363; attitude to Jews, 376, 
381; handling of peasant problem, 387; 
experiences with the Kaiser, 401; nego- 
tiations with Germany at, Norderney, 413; 
efforts in obtaining loan in France, 416; 
part in settlement of Moroccan contro- 
versy between France and Germany, 416, 
430; visit to William II -at Rominten, 417; 
efforts to nullify Bjorke compact, 426 

Wittgenstein, Adjutant-General, activities 
in the "Holy Brotherhood," 24 

Workmen's insurance law enacted, 276 



Yekaterina Harbour favoured as naval base 
by Alexander III, 180 

Yermolov, General, member of Peace Mis- 
sion, 136 

Yuri, Prince, of Leuchtenberg, marries 
one of the Montenegrin princesses, 201 

Yuryevski, Princess, implicated in concession 
scandal, 37 

Yuzefovich, appointed to committee on re- 
vision of censorship regulations, 223 



Zakharin, Professor, summoned to attend 
Alexander III, 45 

Zemski Nachalnik, Rural Chief of Police, 
instituted by Alexander III, 42 

Zemstvos and Town Delegates, Union of, 255 

Zograf, activities in the "Holy Brotherhood," 
24 

Zubatov, Sergey, counter-revolutionary tac- 
tics, 250 




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